How do you put into words a book that touched your heart? I adored David Levithan’s Answers in the Pages, but I knew this review would be incredibly difficult to write. Levithan captures the heart and humanity of an often-discussed issue in an accessible and easily digestible way. It put into words that feeling, deep in your gut, that you get when you read about another school, town, or place attempting to ban a book. That is no small feat, and it makes it awfully hard to express how deeply this book will impact you, how important it will be to kids and grownups alike, and how much value it will add to your life.
This middle grade fiction jumps off the page and engages the reader from the gripping beginning all the way to the final page. It’s thought provoking, insightful, pointed, and just so very important. It is so touchingly beautiful. I cried multiple times, I gasped, I laughed– it’s a full roller coaster of emotions, all running on an undercurrent of hope.
There are many reasons, from a technical standpoint, that this novel is fantastic. The well-developed characters that feel so viscerally real you hurt when they’re hurt and laugh when they laugh. The incredibly realistic dialogue roots the reader in the scene.
The themes are wide-ranging from inclusivity and LGBTQIA+ to book banning to channeling outrage in a healthy way to how to disagree with people you love. It’s the combination of the gorgeous storytelling and topics middle grade readers encounter daily that contribute to the overall wonderfulness of this book.
I’ve been struggling to pinpoint the feeling that reading this book gave me. I like to think I am inclusive, but I know I have more work to do to be as strong of an ally as I want to be. But it came to me today, the name of the feeling this book gave me: empowered. What a gift for a book to be able to give.
I wish I had the right words to adequately express the impact this book as had on me, and I’m merely an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. I can only imagine the heart-filling, soul-touching, mind-changing impact this book can have on the world.
Even though I’m a writer who should have the right words, I don’t. So instead I would like to leave you with some of my favorite quotes from Answers in the Pages:
“But I think some of the parents who are most afraid of this book are actually afraid that the world you’re growing up in isn’t the world they grew up in. And rather than adjust, they think they can keep it the same. That never works, not in a free society.”
“We are who we are…And we’ll be who we’ll be. A book can make us feel that, but it can’t invent that. It’s already inside us.”
“I’m not coming out to you, I could have said. Because for all I felt at that moment, I wasn’t gay. But at the same time I wanted her to understand what she was doing to all the kids who were or would be gay or lesbian or bi or trans or nonbinary by trying to pull a book from our class just because it had one boy saying he loved another boy.”
“Even if you pull all the queer books from our class, even if you could manage to somehow pull all the queer books from this town, I guarantee you, you will not stop us from being who we are. The worst damage you can do is to make the more vulnerable of us feel bad about it. But you cannot hold back the ocean. The ocean will not be contained in such a way.”
David Levithan’s Answers in the Pages is available now. Thank you to the author, Random House Children’s publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced digital copy such that I could share my honest opinions here.
You can purchase Answers in the Pages from Bookshop.org here. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.