In Levithan’s junior year of high school, he got bored in physics class and wrote a Valentine’s story for his friends using the words in his physics textbook. He wrote another Valentine’s story the next year, and kept writing them, and many of these are included in this book of stories about love.
It’s a book of stories that manages to be both very, very David Levithan – tender, funny, sparkling prose, wise about love and teenage stupidity-about-love – and not at all monotonous. There’s good love, bad love, love everywhere in between, straight love, gay love, teenagers, old people.
My favorites: “Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat” is full of ouch and wincing. “The Alumni Interview” and ‘The Good Witch” are honest about the angst of being gay in high school but they’re also really, really funny. In the former, Ian is having an alumni interview with his boyfriend’s father, who doesn’t know that his son is gay.
“What is the GSA?”
I tried to imagine him coming to one of our Gay-Straight Alliance meetings. I tried to imagine that he would understand if I told him what it was.
“GSA stands for God Smiles Always, sir,” I said with my most sincere expression.
“I didn’t know the high school had one of those.”
“It’s pretty new, sir.”
“How did it start?”
“Because of the school musical,” I earnestly explained. “A lot of the kids in the musical wanted to start it.”
“It was Jesus Christ Superstar, sir. I think we were all moved by how much of a superstar Jesus was. It made us want to work to make God smile.”
“The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes” is just… awwwww. “Princes” is one of my favorites: a tangle of unrequited crushes at an elite dance studio, a dancer who wants to bring his non-existent boyfriend to his little brother’s bar mitzvah, the little brother who stands up for him.
“Without Saying” is perhaps the strangest story and perhaps my favorite. It is about love, and the writing of stories, and the intersections between those. What we have the power to invent.
Not all of the stories are great – I appreciate the inclusion of the stories Levithan wrote in high school, but I do find them rather slight – but it’s surprising how many of them are. And Levithan is the kind of writer who can still make me believe in love.