A sweet and touching modern love story, told through dictionary entries.
There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.
If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it—you’re done. And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance, ready for whenever you want it back. Sometimes it’s even there when you thought you were searching for something else, like an escape route, or your lover’s face.
How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.
Discovery: David Levithan is one of my must-read authors, and I pick up everything he publishes. None of his books are predictable.
+ Creative premise. We all know the saying “Every word in the dictionary means love” or a variation thereof. Levithan takes on that challenge and what he comes up with is a painfully beautiful story of love.
+ Unnamed, non-gender-specific protagonists. I will admit that I thought the couple Levithan writes about was heterosexual, but I was happily surprised by how much care he took to make the story fit any kind of relationship. It takes a lot of talent to pull off something like this, and Levithan rose to the challenge.
– Length. Okay, I’m cheating because it’s actually kind of positive, but I wish this book was longer. The novel’s power lies in its concise snapshots of a relationship, but I dare anyone to read it and not want more. Levithan has found a way to circumvent writing a sequel, however, and I’ll link it below.
+/- Word choices. While some words used in the book are easily understood, others may require a little more work. The book assumes a rather substantial vocabulary which younger readers won’t necessarily have.
Recommendations: This is the perfect kind of book for the older end of the YA spectrum, as they have the experiences and knowledge to understand the situations Levithan writes about. It is not a happy book, so teens looking for a sappy read may want to avoid it until they’re ready.