Book Review: Answers in the Pages by David Levithan
I have to give a great big thank you to one of my teen’s former middle school language arts teachers for recommending Answers in the Pages by author David Levithan. It’s lovely, timely, and important.Answers in the Pages by David Levithan
Published by Random House Children's Books on May 10, 2022
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Books & Libraries, Juvenile Fiction / LGBTQ, Juvenile Fiction / School & Education
A bold, timely novel about speaking up and coming out as parents lobby to ban a beloved book from the school curriculum by New York Times-bestselling author David Levithan.
When Donovan left his copy of The Adventurers on the kitchen counter, he didn't think his mom would read it—much less have a problem with it. It's just an adventure novel about two characters trying to stop an evil genius...right?
But soon the entire town is freaking out about whether the book's main characters are gay, Donovan's mom is trying to get the book removed from the school curriculum, and Donovan is caught in the middle.
Donovan doesn't really know if the two boys fall in love at the end or not—but he does know this: even if they do, it shouldn't matter. The book should not be banned from school.
Interweaving three connected storylines, David Levithan delivers a bold, fun, and timely story about taking action (whether it's against book censors or deadly alligators...), being brave, and standing up for what's right.
There are so many wonderful lines in this book that it was difficult to narrow down which to share, but this one hit me hard enough that I wrote it on a sticky note:
“While the meaning of a book may be informed by the author’s intentions, it isn’t defined by them. Meaning comes from the combination of what the author puts in, and what the reader takes out.”
As a writer, I can only control what I write. What readers take away from it is mostly up to them (assuming I’m writing from a place of honesty and not trying to be manipulative.)
What I really appreciated about the Answers in the Pages is how Levithan presents Donovan’s mom and her decision to fight to get the book removed from the class. She isn’t made out to be a bad person – she’s doing this out of love, as misguided as her action is based on her take of the book. (She did, after all, read only the first and last pages – there is a lot of context missed when you do that, just like when a person only reads the headlines.)
And Donovan gets the opportunity to gently let her know that what she is doing is wrong – and he handles it maturely, in what I think is the most powerful lines of the book:
“I know you’re on my side, just not this one time. This one time you thought you were on my side, but you got it wrong.”
This is a sweet coming of age story. It’s also a story of fighting for what you think is right. Levithan’s treatment of the topic of book banning is one of the best I’ve read – he handles it deftly and fairly, and presents it a manner that I wish all the people trying to ban a book for merely including an LGBTQ+ character would read and really appreciate.
Answers in the Pages is such a sweet and important book that I wish I could add it to everyone’s TBR list.