Love Is the Higher Law

Love Is the Higher Law

by David Levithan


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375834691
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 08/10/2010
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 820,241
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

David Levithan is a children’s book editor in New York City. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.


Hoboken, New Jersey

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

New Jersey


B.A., Brown University, 1994

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

My first thought is: My mother is dead.

When Mrs. Shields, the school secretary, shows up so gravely in the doorway and gestures for Mrs. Otis to come over to her, I am sure that my mother has died, that I am now going to have to pack up my books and go to Sammy's school and collect him and tell him that Mom is dead and I'm all he has now and somehow we'll get by. I am so sure that something is wrong, incredibly wrong, and I can't imagine what else it could be. I am already gathering my books as Mrs. Shields whispers to Mrs. Otis. I see Mrs. Otis nod, distressed, and then Mrs. Shields disappears back into the hall. I sit up straighter, waiting for Mrs. Otis to look at me, to say my name. But instead she looks at all of us and says, "Class, a plane has hit the World Trade Center."

Katie Johnson gasps. Other kids start talking.

I am blank.

And then Mrs. Otis asks, "Do any of you have parents working in the World Trade Center?"

We look around. No. But Teresa says that Jill Breslin, who's in one of the other senior English classes, has a father who works there. I think of our apartment, only ten blocks away from the towers. I know my mother isn't home. I know she left with me and Sammy this morning and continued uptown to her office. But suddenly I'm wondering: What if she forgot something? What if she went back to the apartment? What if she took the subway down to Chambers Street, underneath the towers?
I've gone from being sure she's dead to being unsure she's alive, and that's much scarier, because it almost feels rational.

Mrs. Otis informed us on the first day of school that there would be no cell phone usage tolerated in class, but now it's the fifth day of school and there's nothing she can do. She's trying to hold it together, but she's as confused as we are. Cell phones are ringing, and all these kids are telling their parents they're okay, we're all okay—our school is a good thirty blocks north of the Trade Center. Abby Winter's mom starts telling her what the news is saying, and then she tells it to the rest of us: "The plane hit around the ninetieth floor. The building's still standing, and people are evacuating. Firemen are going up. The other tower looks like it's okay..."

My friend Randy spots a TV in the back of the class, but when he tries it out, all we get is static. I know Randy has a phone and I ask him if I can use it. I try calling Mom's office, but nobody picks up. I leave a message on the answering machine, telling her I'm okay.

The principal gets on the PA and says that all the classes have been informed of the "situation downtown," and that if there are any "concerned students," they should come to the guidance suite. We all know what he means by concerned students—he means if your parents are there.

We're not a big school. There are only about seventy kids in each grade. So I can't help imagining Jill Breslin down there in the guidance office, and a few other kids. Teresa's getting frantic now, saying she has to go see Jill. And it's not even like they're best friends. Mrs. Otis tries to calm her down, saying the guidance counselors will take care of it. And I think that kind of makes sense, since the guidance counselors are adults, but it also doesn't, because even if Teresa isn't best friends with Jill, she definitely knows Jill more than any of the guidance counselors do.

The thought of Jill Breslin in that guidance office makes me feel I should go to the lower school and see Sammy. I wonder if they've told the second graders what's happening, or if Mrs. Lawson is closing the blinds and giving them a spelling test.

Suddenly there's this big scream from the classroom next to ours—at least ten people yelling out. Mrs. Otis goes to the door connecting her room to Mr. Baker's, and about half our class follows, so we're there when she asks what's going on. But nobody needs to answer—Mr. Baker's gotten his TV to work, and it's not one but two towers that are burning, and they're saying on the TV that there was a second plane, that the towers are under attack, and seeing it erases any premonitions I might have had, because even if I felt something was wrong, I never would have pictured this.

This isn't even something I've feared, because I never knew it was a possibility. Kids are crying now, both in Mr. Baker's class and in my class, and we're looking at each other like What do we do? and the principal is on the PA again telling everyone to remain calm, which only makes it worse. It's like the principal knows something he's not telling us, and the TV is saying that people are jumping, and Teresa just loses it completely, and we're all thinking about Jill and who knows who else, and people are trying to call their parents on their cell phones, but now all the lines are busy, or maybe they've stopped working, and I don't even have a cell phone and neither does my mother. I just want to get Sammy and go home.

All of our class is in Mr. Baker's room now—it's practically the whole twelfth grade. Mrs. Otis and Mr. Baker are in the front, talking to each other, and then Mrs. Otis heads to the office to see what's going on. Randy offers his phone to me again, but says it's not really working, although maybe it will work for me. It doesn't, and I don't know what else I can do, except I realize now I should've given my mom Randy's number. The TV is showing people downtown running away. I tell Randy I have to get my brother, and saying it to him makes it mean I'm going to do it.
I go up to Mr. Baker and say my brother's in the lower school, in second grade, and I have to go get him. This girl Marisol hears me and says her sister's over there, too, in first grade, and is probably really scared. Mr. Baker says nobody is supposed to leave the school, but we tell him we're only going across the street, and we must sound really desperate, because he looks at us and says it's fine, as long as we come straight back.

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Love Is the Higher Law 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was definitely a new area for me to read, but i enjoyed it just the same. It doesn't really focus on 9/11 itself, but more of the emotional aspect it had on others. David Levithan did an excellent job with writing qoutes that i will remember. Sometimes I would just stop and deeply reflect how this book was changing me, mind and body. It is definitely a new take on the world. Kudos to you, David. Kudos to you.
ewyatt on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Three New York teens attempt to make sense of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in this brief, powerful novel. Starting with the day of the attack and the immediate aftermath. The alternating chapters told in first person trace how the three main characters try to find meaning and heal in the days, weeks, and years that follow. Claire helps and is helped by Jasper and Peter as they struggle to articulate the way that the world has shifted after the towers fall. I had a chance to both reflect on my experience of 9/11 and found it fascinating to imagine what it would have been like to be confronted with the events in the street rather than on TV. I'm also curious to see how this novel will be received by the teens I work with who don't have a personal context for the event.
galleysmith on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I wanted to like this book. I really really did. When I saw it in a Waiting for Wednesday post on a blog I immediately added it to my ¿must have¿ list of books to get when it released. I¿d yet to see any young adult fiction that was directly plotted around the events of September 11th and it¿s description definitely pulled me in and intrigued me. What¿s more, I knew that it would be handled with taste and class by Levithan given his New York City roots.This review is, of course, not to say that the story wasn¿t handled as such because it was. As always, Levithan¿s writing style is approachable and entertaining. My problem is that the story felt so disconnected. Originally, I was excited by the prospect of reading the alternating points of view. I have, in the past, enjoyed this format a great deal. But for this story, the best parts were when all three came together.Levithan built the story at a leisurely pace, bringing the three together only for a small part of the end of the book. Peter, being the middle man, knew both Claire and Jasper separately so watching how he navigated the aftermath to eventually bring them all into this strong bond was interesting. It just took longer to get there than I would have liked.I was worried that the romance between Jasper and Peter was going to be ill-timed and equally ill-placed. Thankfully it was built with just as much apprehension and chaos as the time surrounding it held. The back and forth of the should they/shouldn¿t they and the emotional turmoil of living in the city during one of the most catastrophic events in history was handled with delicacy and from all appearances rang true to form. Life didn¿t stop completely in this book it just took a drastic turn in varying directions.Claire was the most proactive in her reactions, do-gooding her way across the city hoping to make a difference. While at times a bit preachy for me I thought it was a good alternative perspective to the interpersonal struggles of Jasper and Peter. This isn¿t to say that Claire wasn¿t fighting her own demons from that day because she was, she struggles just as much as the rest. But I found her to be a bit dull and flat ¿ like I said slightly preachy.I think in the end, this book fell short not because it was a bad book or poorly written and characterized because it was none of that. I think it suffered from my expectations. Though I can¿t verbalize why they were so high I just expected more¿.or maybe different. Had the story infused the three together more (and earlier) than it had I suspect I may have felt differently.I strongly encourage people interested in the young adult perspective on September 11th to give this book a go. I¿d enjoy hearing your thoughts on why I may be wrong!
krystal_osmond on LibraryThing 11 months ago
My Review: First off, I just want to say that what happened in New York on 9/11 was such a tragedy. And writing a book about it like David Levithan did was a very courageous thing to do.I live in Canada so the events didn't quite affect me the way that it did for the actual New Yorkers involved, but I still remember the day that this happened. I was at school, 13 years old and to be honest, I had no idea what The World Trade Towers were. I heard the news from my sister and her friend at the time, and I probably shrugged my shoulders, thought "that's really awful" and went on with my day. It was just a short while after that than the school turned on the news and I saw the whole thing play out on tv. It was shocking and so unbelivable! When I got home that day, my mom had the news on, and we just sat and cried and watched the news wishing that we could do something right then and there. I will never forget that day - and I think that Levithan wrote a great book for those who were around when this happened and for those who weren't. Obviously a book of any kind will never compare to the actual event and severity of it all, but it lets readers understand and remember a little more.David Levithan has exceptional writing. From the first page of this book, I was hooked. Love Is The Higher Law is so intense and powerful. The characters come to life while reading. Claire, Jasper and Peter are so different, yet they come together because of the events of 9/11. The 3 characters are equally strong and well written. I can't really say much about the 'storyline' - whether it was believable, far-fetched, etc - because I think this wasn't so much a 'story' as it was a look back into the events of 9/11 and the things people did to help one another on this very tragic day, and the friendships/closeness that begun as a result.Overall, the characters, the writing and the book as a whole was flawless. Devid Levithan outdid himself with Love Is The Higher Law. I think that this book will be read by many in the years to come. Everyone should read this novel, you will cry, you will get emotional and most importantly, you will remember.
GaylDasherSmith on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Now that we have some distance from 9-11, a story like this has insight and meaning. Fascinating.
framberg on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I love David Levithan, but I wanted more from this book. Perhaps I want too much - one of the tags I gave it was "making meaning" and 9/11 is perhaps too huge and still too close to ask him to make meaning from. Still, this had moments that felt very real, including the characters' confusion about how to manage the loss all around them. It made me feel hopeful, although I know how the story turned out.
1402069 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This book is much more than a book about September 11th. It is a book about the reaction of people after that day. It's about how people came together. This is the story of Claire, Jasper, and Peter... as well as New York City. Claire is in highschool. She was at school on 9/11. She left to go be with her brother who was across the street at the elementary school building. She was not with Peter or Jasper, and in fact barely knew them. She went to school with Peter, but she hadn't really known them besides the fact that they were on the school paper together. Peter was waiting for the towers to open that day. He was supposed to be in school. Peter had a date with Jasper that was cancelled due to the events on 9/11. They emailed and had the date later on.Jasper was at a party that Claire and Peter were both at. That's where he met Peter. Eventually their stories all came together. Claire, the best friend to both, and Peter and Japer are pretty sure they're in love. This book will make you think twice about how you treat others, and it will help you remember or learn about the events of September 11, 2001.
stephxsu on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Before that fateful Tuesday in September, Claire, Peter, and Jasper were all only vaguely connected. Claire and Peter go to school together, and Peter and Jasper are looking forward to their first date after meeting at a party over the weekend.After September 11, however, their lives will never again be the same. As the three teens struggle to live in a world full of mistrust, inexplicable tragedy, and uncertainty, they grow closer and learn that love, indeed, trumps all.It¿s about time that someone wrote a YA novel about possibly the most important event of our generation, and who better to write it than the multitalented David Levithan? LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW is beautiful without being cloying, and wrings at the heart without resorting to theatrics. The subtle power of it is something that only a master writer can accomplish.What struck me most about the book is its language. Each character has a distinct voice and different ways of approaching the same event and its consequences. All three, however, are capable of tremendous insight, and you¿ll find it hard to resist writing down the quotable slivers of wisdom that can be found on nearly every page.Claire, Peter, and Jasper work well as individuals, but their interactions are slightly shaky and sudden. I prefer the characters when they¿re in their own heads, and am slightly skeptical of some moments such as when Claire immediately launches into a night-long philosophical talk with Jasper, whom she had never spoken to before then. Wherefore did all that dialogue come from, Claire dearest? However, I¿m willing to overlook specific moments of reader¿s discomfort like that because of the beautiful writing, and because of the book¿s message that love and connection is what keeps the world turning, even after you believe it can¿t anymore.LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW is the kind of book you¿ll want to keep forever, to go back to for reaffirmations of the kind of goodness that humanity is capable of. I¿m sure that Levithan¿s writing career is far from over, but I¿m willing to say that this book may be his best one so far. It¿s a great way for teens to approach the conflicting emotions surrounding this unforgettable date.
callmecayce on LibraryThing 11 months ago
A beautiful, moving story set before, during and after the attacks on September 11, 2009. Levithan brings the the story of three strangers and how their lives are changed by the attacks. Though short, Love Is the Higher Law is packed full of emotion -- from teenage angst to the weight of the world so many people (New Yorkers and non) felt. Though we read this 8 years later, the Levithan's writing reminds us that life is fragile, but always precious.
ylin.0621 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I had many other books to read, to tackle, so I wasn¿t planning to read any of Levithan¿s work for quite some time. But wow I really read more of his works. David Levithan threw together a novel of growth¿of a city, of yourself, of an entire nation. We follow these 3 teens from the during to the after and fragments of the before. In just 24 hours the city of New York, known for its constant traffic is abruptly put on hold. The entire city changes, many New Yorkers change, and we live with it. We watch as the city come together and aid those with whatever they can¿lighting candles, donating blood, sheltering people. The 3 teens¿Claire, Jasper, and Peter¿are all very different. Claire is someone who has to help, who wants to move forward, who pretends to be the strong one even if she doubts herself in every wink. Jasper¿the gay Korean¿is the one who just can¿t feel, he wants to but he can¿t, he doesn¿t know how. And then Peter¿who falls in love with Jasper¿lives life through music. They all have one thing in common though, a party right before the twin towers fell. I really do think that this novel was spectacular. It was heartbreaking, it was emotional, it was moving. I love all three main characters differently but at the same time similar. They each spoke a volume worth of words even if it¿s just 5. Overall: I bow down to David Levithan.
peterwilliams on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Even though I am not American, this still resonated with me. As people have said, it is about relationships and dealing with their feelings, their attractions and emotions when a world is turned upside down.
kimberlyfaye More than 1 year ago
I struggled for a long time to decide what I would do on my blog to honor 9/11. It just didn’t seem right not to do something. After a lot of thought, I decided the best thing I could do would be to share with you my review on a book that’s a few years old, a book I actually read for the first time last year, on the anniversary of 9/11. I don’t know what finally made me decide to read this book, especially on that day, but I’m glad I did. It was beautiful. “And here we are, so different from who we were on September 10th. And also different from who we were on the 11th. And the 12th. And yesterday.” I’ve never been through something that impacted my life so thoroughly, yet not at all, as I was on that day and in the days following. I was too young to remember the first attempt to bring down the towers in 1993 or the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. Actually, maybe it’s not a question of being too young, I was 14 and 16, respectively, but I was safe, living at home with my parents. I was protected. I knew those events were horrific and sad, but I didn’t fully understand the weight of them. I grew up in a small town. I went to college in a small town. I spent my entire life in small towns – up until the end of August 2001. It was then that I packed up and moved to the Washington DC suburbs. I wanted excitement. I wanted to live where the action was. I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen just a couple short weeks after I moved. “I know immediately that this is going to be one of the true historic moments of my life – that the personal and the historic are converging. I know people will ask, ‘Where were you when you first heard?’” Without getting into all of the details, I’ll say that I was home alone on 9/11. My roommates were all at work. I was to be going to work in the afternoon. Our apartment was about 10 miles from the Pentagon. I was scared out of my mind. I was in a new city, truly living on my own for the first time in my life, 4 hours away from my parents and the country was seemingly under attack. I will never, ever forget the way I felt that day. “Seeing it erases any premonitions I might have had, because even if I felt something was wrong, I never would have pictured this. This isn’t even something I’ve feared, because I never knew it was a possibility.” Love is the Higher Law follows the lives of three teenagers in New York during the events of September 11, 2001 through the first anniversary of the attacks in 2002 and the start of the war in March 2003. I was originally uncomfortable at the thought of them potentially being in danger, or of losing a loved one. Rest assured, the book does not take that path. It’s more about the thoughts, feelings and struggles these teens have as a result of what happened that day. While the book talks about where each of these characters were when they found out, I never once felt as though it was glorifying the tragedy of the day. “I cannot think of a single word to describe what we feel. I think we all feel it, to varying degrees. Perhaps in some other language there is a word for ‘the world is terribly wrong.’ That feeling of stun and unbelief and abandonment and shock and horror and distress.” The characters drive this story far more than the tragedy does. They were well-developed, believable and relatable. It was easy to empathize with them. They were portrayed so realistically. I have no doubt nearly every teenager in New York City was having similar thoughts and reactions as the events unfolded that day and the city and country began to try to heal after. I don’t need to tell you the plot of this story. We all know what happened that day. It’s the stories of these three teens, and learning how their lives come to interconnect, that makes this book special. “I think that if you were somehow able to measure the weight of human kindness, it would have weighed more on 9/11 than it ever had. On 9/11, all the hatred and murder could not compare with the weight of love, of bravery, of caring. I have to believe that. I honestly believe that. I think we saw the way humanity works on that day, and while some of it was horrifying, so much of it was good.” “Maybe there’s a way to keep us in this moment. Not the sad part. But the coming together part.” One of the things I appreciated most about this book were the small details in this story encompass, for me, the best of what came out of the tragedy. The attention to detail was extraordinary. The observations of the teens in the book so closely mimicked the real-life stories I read after that day. From the shopkeepers who handed out food and drinks and even shoes to those escaping from Lower Manhattan, to those folks grieving together and connecting with total strangers during the memorials held after. Amongst the tragedy and darkness, the death and destruction, there were little signs of hope, of coming together, of all that is the best part of mankind. “In small letters, someone has written NEVER FORGET on one of the slats. I know it’s supposed to be a pledge, but it feels like a curse. Don’t we have to forget some of it? Don’t we have to forget this feeling? If we don’t, how will we live?” The moving-on and living chapters of the book were very powerful to me. The understanding that while things have changed and times are different, you can’t stop living your life. You ride the subway. You fly on airplanes. You go to concerts and other places where there are large crowds of people. New friends are made, new relationships are had. While these characters realized this event had impacted their lives in a very powerful way, they moved forward. Never forgetting, but not letting fear run their lives. “Gone is not forgotten, but our lives cannot be a memorial. This city can not be a memorial. This city has to be a city. Our lives have to be our lives.” If I’m being honest with myself, when I first read the blurb for this book, I had no desire to ever read it. The events of 9/11 are not something I want to read about. They were horrifying and have no need to be dramatized. They don’t need to be a cheap plot line (looking at you, Remember Me). But, I’m really glad that I set aside my doubts and made an exception for this book. It was raw and real. It respected the events. It was a story of grief, yes, but it was also a story of hope. It’s a short, yet powerful, book. It was like a love song to the city. I don’t know that any other author could have made this work as well as David Levithan did.  “This is what a memorial is: standing still, staring at something that isn’t there.”
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this novel a lot. The begginning was a little confusing, but towards the end everything came together which was really unique. Also this shows that when a tragedy occurs, it doesnt hurt one person, it rather brings everyone together. The stoty of these three friends is inspiring and great. Very exeptional read.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Huge thanks to the girl who sat next to me on the bus to Chicago from ALA. She had this ARC in her hands when she boarded the bus for our 3 1/2 hour trip home, and she finished it by the time the trip was over. When I asked how she liked it, she nodded, I believe, then swallowed a lump in her throat, and offered me the book. Once again, thank you! Do you remember where you were on 9/11? The characters in LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW were all in New York City. So was David Levithan, and that experience was inspiration for this book. As Levithan points out in the Author's Note, many young people today may be too young to have first-hand memories of that world-changing day. By reading the experiences of Jasper, Peter, and Claire, perhaps the emotions of that day and its aftermath can be experienced by readers in the years to come. As the book begins, each character shares where they were and what it was like at the moment. Peter and Claire were affected immediately, while Jasper finds it difficult to admit that he slept through the actual attack and learned about it as he listened to Peter Jennings on the news. The personal experiences of the three become intertwined as the story continues. All three are surprised at how directly they feel the emotions of the event. The life they once took for granted, the city they've always known as home, and the atmosphere surrounding them have them asking questions that have no real answers. David Levithan captures the unique yet universal feelings inspired by the event that touched us all. Amidst the unanswered questions are feelings of greater appreciation for family and friends, the sympathy that goes out to those who lost and suffered most, and the human condition that connects the entire world. Unlike the teen who read the book in one sitting on the bus, I found the need to set it aside at times to sort through my own memories of that day and what has unfolded since. The world is truly a different place, and I've concluded I'm not sure if it is for the better or worse. Time will tell.