On My Bookshelf: Love Is The Higher Law by David Levithan

October 06, 2015

In Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan, the lives of three teens become intertwined as they try to reconcile the events following the terrorist attacks on September 11 and move forward with their lives.
Basic plot: On the morning of September 11, 2001, Claire is in class, Peter is waiting for the record store to open so he can buy a CD, and Jasper is sleeping. When disaster strikes, Claire quickly leaves, heads to her younger brother's school, and hopes their mom will find them soon. All Peter can do is stand and stare. Jasper wakes to his parents frantic phone calls and emails from concerned friends. In the days that follow, the three teens' lives intersect. Jasper and Peter have an awkward first date, Claire and Jasper run into each other on a walk one night, and then Claire and Peter become friends after Jasper returns to college. While they can never forget 9/11 and the impact on their city, together they find ways to move forward in their lives.

Why I liked it: Claire's section of the book really resonated with my own experiences on 9/11. I too was in high school in class when teachers were informed of the events that were unfolding, who in turn informed the students. Thought I lived in Philadelphia, I immediately thought of a friend whose father worked in New York City (it turned out that he was fine, but he never went back to work after 9/11). Like Claire I had hope that humanity would learn from this tragedy and was devastated when the war in Afghanistan began. I could also connect to the disconnect all the characters felt from a world that was moving forward despite the catastrophic events of 9/11. Many of us have probably experienced that feeling after the loss of a loved one, wondering how people can be happy and go about their day to day life when something so terrible has happened.

Classroom application: While the novel is fiction, it is connected to the author's own experiences on 9/11 and could be used as a fiction pairing in a history class. Since students entering high school now were born before 9/11 even occurred, I do believe this is an event that should be taught in some form. Reading the novel could lead to an oral history project where students record the experiences of people they know on 9/11.

Because the novel uses three narrators, students could study the way in which the author creates and intertwines the different plot lines. Then using the novel as a mentor text, students could write their own narratives with three intersecting plot lines.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Love Is The Higher Law for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:

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