Wide Awake

Wide Awake

by David Levithan


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The New York Times bestselling author of Every Day delivers an emotional and politically charged novel that’s perfect reading for an election year—and for every year—but most especially for those times when the very democratic process is called into question and basic rights are at risk.
In the not-too-impossible-to-imagine future, a gay Jewish man has been elected president of the United States. Until the governor of one state decides that some election results in his state are invalid, awarding crucial votes to the other candidate, and his fellow party member. Thus is the inspiration for couple Jimmy and Duncan to lend their support to their candidate by deciding to take part in the rallies and protests. Along the way comes an exploration of their relationship, their politics, and their country, and sometimes, as they learn, it's more about the journey than it is about reaching the destination.

Only David Levithan could so masterfully and creatively weave together a plot that's both parts political action and reaction, as well as a touching and insightfully-drawn teen love story.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375834677
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 09/09/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 473,421
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

David Levithan is a children's book editor in New York City. The author lives in Hoboken, NJ.


Hoboken, New Jersey

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

New Jersey


B.A., Brown University, 1994

Read an Excerpt

“I can’t believe there’s going to be a gay Jewish president.”

As my mother said this, she looked at my father, who was stillstaring at the screen. They were shocked, barely comprehending.


I sat there and beamed.

I think it was the Jesus Freaks who were the happiest the next day at school. Most of the morning papers were saying that Stein’s victory wouldn’t have been possible without the Jesus Revolution in the church, and I don’t think Mandy or Janna or any of the other members of The God Squad would’ve argued. Mandy was wearing her JESUS IS LOVET-shirt, while Janna had a LOVETHYNEIGHBOR button on her bag, right above the STEIN FOR PRESIDENT sticker. When they saw me walk through the door, they cheered and ran over, bouncing me into a jubilant hug. I wasn’t the only gay Jew they knew, but I was the one they knew best, and we all had been volunteers on the Stein/Martinez campaign together. After the hugging was done, we stood there for a moment and looked at one another with utter astonishment. We’d done it. Even though we wouldn’t be able to vote for another two years, we’d helped to make this a reality. It was the most amazing feeling in the world, to know that something right had happened, and to know that it had happened not through luck or command but simply because it was right.

Some of our fellow students walked by us and smiled. Others scoffed or scowled–there were plenty of people in our school who would’ve been happy to shove our celebration into a locker and keep it there for four years.

“It was only by one state,” one of them grunted. “Only a thousand votes in Kansas.”

“Yeah, but who also got the popular vote?” Mandy challenged.

The guy just spat on the ground and moved on.

“Did he really just spit?” Janna asked. “Ew.”

I was looking everywhere for Jimmy. As soon as the results had been announced, I’d gone to my room to call him.

“Can you believe it?” I’d asked.

“I am so so so happy,” he’d answered.

And I was so so so happy, too. Not only because of the election but because I had Jimmy to share it with. I had two things to believe in now, and in a way they felt related. The future–that was it. I believed in the future, and in our future.

“I love you,” he’d said at the end of the call, his voice bleary from the hour but sweetened by the news.

“I love you, too,” I’d replied. “Good night.”

“Very good night.”

Now I wanted the continuation, the kiss that would seal it. The green states had triumphed, the electoral college was secure, and I was in love with a boy who was in love with me.

“Somewhere Jesus is smiling,” Janna said.

“Praise be,” Mandy chimed in.

Keisha and Mira joined us in the halls, fingers entwined. They looked beamy, too.

“Not a bad day for gay Jew boys, huh?” Keisha said to me.

“Not a bad day for Afro-Chinese lesbians, either,” I pointed out.

Keisha nodded. “You know it’s the truth.”

We had all skipped school the previous two days to get out the vote. Since most of us weren’t old enough to drive, we acted as dispatchers, fielding calls from Kennedy-conscious old-age-home residents and angry-enough agoraphobic liberals,making sure the ESVs came to take them to the polls. Other kids, like Jimmy, had been at the polling places themselves, getting water and food for people as they waited hours for their turn to vote.

I felt that history was happening. Not like a natural disaster or New Year’s Eve.No, this was human-made history, and here I was an infinitesimally small part of it.We all were.

Suddenly I felt two arms wrap around me from behind, the two palms coming to rest at the center of my chest. Two very familiar hands–the chewed-up fingernails, the dark skin a little darker at the knuckles, the wire-thin pinkie ring, the bright red watch. The bracelet with two beads on it, jade for him and agate for me. I wore one just like it.

I smiled then–the same way I smiled every time I saw Jimmy.

He made me happy like that.

“Beautiful day,” he said to me.

“Beautiful day,” I agreed, then turned in his arms to give him that
this is real kiss.

The first bell rang. I still had to run to my locker before homeroom.

“Everything feels a little different today, doesn’t it?” Jimmy asked.

We kissed again, then parted. But his words echoed with me. I was too young to remember when the Supreme Court upheld the rights of gay Americans, and all the weddings started happening. But I imagined that day felt a lot like today. I’d heard so many people talk about it, about what it meant to know you had the same rights as everyone else, making anything possible. I knew that this time it was just the Presidency, and that Stein was likely to become more moderate to get along with Congress, especially since we’d only won by the margin of Kansas. But still . . . everything did feel a little different. Yes, the kids walking the halls around me were the same kids who’d been there yesterday. The books in my locker were piled just the way I’d left them. Mr. Farnsworth, my homeroom teacher, waited impatiently by his door, just like he always did. But it was like someone had upped the wattage of all the lights by a dozen watts. Someone had made the air two shades easier to breathe. I knew this feeling wouldn’t last. As soon as I realized it was euphoria, I knew it wouldn’t last. I couldn’t even hold on to it. I could only ride within it as far as it would carry me. The second bell rang. I sprinted into class, and Mr. Farnsworth closed the door.

“I expect to see you standing today,” he said to me.

This was the deal we had: If Stein won the Presidency, I would stand for the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time since elementary school. Even back then, I hated the way it seemed to be something rote and indoctrinated–most people saying the words emptily, without understanding them. I didn’t want to drone it unless I meant it. I’d always said the six last words, though. And today I said them extra loud, standing up.

With liberty and justice for all.

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Wide Awake 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
nickdreamsong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating alternate future in which the perils of homophobia, Christian hatred and the electoral college play out during a contested election that could place a gay Jewish man (and his husband and kids) in the White House. The story is told through the eyes of a group of Jersey teens (not the Jersey Shore crew) and their family and friends. There are some great messages here especially about the silent majority of loving Christians who are out there focusing on Jesus's messages of love and inclusion. This 2006 speculative work has been turned on it's head by the 2008 election, but it's worth the read. Not Levithan's best work. When he's great, he's great. Here, he is good, and still well worth the time.
cecily on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oddly prescient novel about a not-too distant future where an unlikely political candidate is elected the Presidency of the United States, and a young gay man's political awakening. If you're an Obama supporter (or even if you aren't) this story about ordinary people who organized and mobilized around a central idea will inspire you. As the title suggests, we need to remain Wide Awake this November, and we must be prepared to live our convictions.

One of the most moving, enjoyable, and well written young-adult novels I've read since John Green's An Abundance of Katherines (which should be the standard against which all YA novels are measured).
anyanwubutler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Two gay teens have to decide what to do when their candidate for president is elected, but the governor of Kansas tries to steal the vote.
1402069 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book started off kind of boring. Part 1 is where you learn about Duncan and Jimmy and most of the other characters. Part 2 is actually when the book begins to get good. That is the part about Kansas. It tells thhe story of how they got there, who they found there, and what they learned there. The characters are forgettable, but the story is one of a country coming together as one, and it is the memorable part.
ruststar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book just before the election and now it feels so much more possible. y initial reaction at the beginning was "holy load of political stuff!" (not my thing, generally) but I liked the message. Levithan is one of my favorite authors. He has a wonderul style, easy to read but smartly written.I love the way he writes relationships, and how he can show intimacy without great detail. An earlier review found the brief description a bit shocking, but I didn't think it shocking at all. Indeed I thought he wrote a well-done scene with a great deal of restraint and class. I've seen more detailed descriptions in YA novels with straight couples.
Jenson_AKA_DL on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
16 year old Duncan is feeling hopeful. The Great Depression is over, the Reign of Fear is just a memory, the first gay/Jewish president, Abraham Stein, has been elected thanks to his ideal of a global Great Community and Duncan is in love with a boy who loves him back. However, when the vote in Kansas is thrown into question out of politics instead of fairness Duncan realizes that to have hope for himself, his community and his world he finds himself asking, ¿What are you willing to do for something you believe in?¿ His response to this question will challenge everything he once believed about himself, his friends and the world around him.Wide Awake takes place in a future ¿decades after 9/11¿ and illustrates the potential repercussions of what is happening in our world today. David Levithan has created a believable future which I suppose is either hopeful or horrible depending on your current point of view (personally I¿m on the side of hopeful). I liked the depiction of the relationship between Duncan and Jimmy. There was a great deal of love but also some of the typical angst you see with many couples, both teen and adult. While Duncan is always of the opinion that Jimmy is the strong one, it is clear that Duncan has some very strong ethics of his own that he¿s not afraid to take a chance on. A lot of the events in the story also rang true for me. slight spoiler One part in particular is where Duncan is having a flashback to when he is working on the political campaign for Stein and has to make a series of calls to people to drum up support for his candidate. Some of the people are extremely horrible to him and is illustrated by this part, ¿the anger, the yelling, the names I was called just for being a Stein supporter by people I¿d never met ¿ that wasn¿t stupidity as much as loathing and fear. This was my weakness: I couldn¿t stand meanness. It unnerved me. As a teen I once did telemarketing for a charity where I was faced with the same reception. After the job was done it was years, lasting until months after I became a secretary at a law firm, before I could answer the phone without having a panic attack. Even without the phone thing I can identify with where the author is coming from with that comment. I feel the same way when faced with hurtful, judgmental people who like to berate and hurt you for no reason than their own pleasure and feelings of superiority.I guess you could say I liked Wide Awake for all the reasons I disliked [The Losers]. The community, humanitarianism and particularly the act of getting involved for a greater good were all themes I can appreciate. Although I¿m not in any way an activist myself I greatly admire those that are.
tasha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Levithan returns to his utopian writing of Boy Meets Boy with this political and social commentary on today's world. Imagine a future where Bush has created a second Depression, known as the Greater Depression, and the world has survived, but it has turned away from the blue and red of today's America and embraced a new green party made of Christians and the left out of which the first gay Jewish president is elected. Or is he? In this world, there is no more consumerism, no more brands, no more emphasis on affluenza. It is truly an amazing view of the future of the United States. All is not perfect in this future. There is still intense hatred by right-wing religious people towards people who are gay, but a vast movement has occurred that has created a Christian voting force and lifestyle that focuses on love. Again, amazing and fascinating and uplifting. Levithan has once again created a world in which readers will want to live. Whenever I set the book down, I found it jarring to return to the world I live in. I saw commercials differently, listened to politicians speak in a detached way, and realized that there is hope even if things go all wrong and gas prices truly skyrocket and the world flips around. There is hope, hope that the new America may be more accepting, more forgiving, and less commercial than where I stand now. And it is all because of Levithan's knack at creating a world that is at first unthinkable and by the end impossible not to consider seriously. What if? That is the strength of Levithan's writing. A simple what if?Levithan's characterizations are brilliant as well. His writing is effortless and easy to lose yourself in. The characters are people you know, people you are, and people you hope to be one day. Each one can be related to, is completely human, and reacts to the situation in a personal way. Bravo! Bravo for having the courage to create a view of the future that takes us beyond the immediate darkness and shows us that the future of America is brightly lit with acceptance and love. Bravo!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a lot. It is idealistic but that is the point and its not ashamed of that. The main character is easy to relate to and the characters are interesting and fun.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Decades from today, the results of the election are out, and for the first time in the history of the United States, a gay, Jewish president, Abraham Stein, has been elected. After the Greater Depression, the War to End All Wars, the Reign of Fear, and the Jesus Revolution, the moment has arrived. Seventeen-year-old Duncan, who has spent the last few months working with his boyfriend, Jimmy, as a volunteer at the campaign headquarters, can finally stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance because at last the words "with liberty and justice for all" make sense.

But soon everything will take a 180-degree turn. The governor of Kansas, a member of the opposition party, demands a recount. Stein is determined to fight back, and asks all the people who have elected him to go to Kansas and show their support. Everyone at the election headquarters decides to board their bus that night and join this pilgrimage to Kansas.

Duncan, always insecure, always wondering about what Jimmy will think and what will happen to their relationship, knows that going to Kansas is the right thing to do. It's the once in a lifetime opportunity to help write history, and he decides to board the bus despite his parents' disapproval.

However, the trip proves to be more challenging than he thought. Duncan and Jimmy's relationship seems strained. Their friend Keisha finds out that her girlfriend, Mira, was having an affair with another girl in the group. And when the group arrives in Topeka, Kansas, they have to endure the insults and vicious attacks of the Decents (the supporters of the opposition party). They camp out in the center of town, along with more than half a million other people, with not much food, only a few accommodations, and no quick resolution in sight. Will it be worth it? Will justice prevail?

When I pick up a book by David Levithan, certain things are a given. First, I know it's going to be well written. From a little poem, to a presidential speech, to a sex scene, Levithan proves once again with WIDE AWAKE that he's a talented writer and has a great deal of imagination. This entertaining novel, full of interesting characters, is a combination of a fun parody of good versus evil, and a love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago