The time – 3:45, four hours after we arrived, but less than an hour until we must be on the bus.
The scene – ALA Annual Conference exhibits, a publisher’s booth that was formerly crowded and crammed.
The players – a girl and her mother, and a similarly exhausted Advanced Reader hawker
Mom: Do you have any of this book?
Hawker: No, we’re out.
Girl: Ooh! New Frank Portman! Do you have one of those.
Hawker: Nope…. sorry.
Mom: Well, what do you have back there that’s any good.
Girl: Mom, if you’ve heard of the author, they probably don’t have any left.
Hawker: What kind of book are you looking for?
Mom: Good for a girl, teen girl, I guess.
Hawker: How about this one?
Girl: NEW DAVID LEVITHAN!?!?!?? HOLY SMOKES!!!
This book is Very Levithan, utilizing multiple viewpoints (Are We There Yet?, Nick & Norah, Naomi & Ely, Realm of Possibility), a I’m-Gay-But-I’m-Not-JUST-Gay Main Character (Boy Meets Boy, Realm of Possibility, Naomi & Ely, Wide Awake), and of course, New York City as the prominent, and important, setting (Nick & Norah, Naomi & Ely). But this book sets itself apart from the pack, mostly because it does what No Authors Should Do: write about something culturally relevant.
In this case, the bit of culture in question is September 11th.
The three narrators take turns telling their stories of the day, the stories that shortly turn into “Where Were You When You Found Out…” Claire was in school, and found a maternal urge to travel to the lower school and find her younger brother, assuming their mother would be flighty as always. Jaspar, home from college and staying in his parent’s Brooklyn apartment alone, sleeps straight through the whole mess. And Peter, flying high on the prospect of a CD release and maybe a new boyfriend, skipped school, but was punished with a front-row seat to the disaster at hand. The three characters change and adjust, finding each other through circumstance and growing together by neccessity.
I read it in one sitting, and it hit home. I’m getting old enough where there is a bit of a disconnect between YA characters and Me. A great story and a great author usually takes care of that, but being that I was in my Pre-Calculus class “When I Found Out,” this tiny rewind made me think about what it was like to have been in the thick of it, instead of safely in Michigan.
This is, obviously, a sad book. But sad in the best way possible, I promise.