David Levithan is really making a mark on the literary world. Bringing together the wealth of writing knowledge that comes from being a highly-regarded New York Times bestselling author and the modern take on life in this era that he so deftly observes, he has the ability to relate to readers on a human level. In all his books, characters are tangible, three-dimensional people who struggle through issues regarding race, sexuality, politics and gender.
Like many of the storylines in his novels, answers in the pages deals with the issues found in the LGBTQI+ community. However, this is not a ‘gay’ story, rather it is an exploration of censorship and familial relationships where the characters just happen to be gay.
The witty repartee that Levithan creates adds to the humour of the book, but also connects with the meaningful and quite realistic existence for these characters.
Based around the character of Donovan who has been given a book to read as part of a school project called The Adventurers. However, all is not well in Donovan’s house after his mum realises that two of the characters in the story are gay.
It’s a story within a story scenario with the swashbuckling adventures of Rick and Oliver - the two protagonists of The Adventures, mirror some of the events unfolding in Donovan’s own world.
Levithan has, once again, constructed a narrative that is as much fun as it is a poignant commentary on the state of lives for the LGBTQI+ community internationally. In doing so, he creates a supportive atmosphere for all characters where tolerance is learned, and diversity is appreciated.
But there is a sub-plot that emerges in this whole censorship issue. Gideon and Roberto - two of Donovan’s peers from class - have been paired together to work on their project, and that brings with it some new dynamics for the two of them. Coming out to the town is sure to bring some issues, particularly with the backdrop of the whole school environment.
The very concept of banning books is one that is intriguing and worth a look into as a general topic. Here, Levithan brings it front and centre and provides an opportunity for young people to consider censorship and how that affects the media that they consume. Even on this level alone, this is a vital book in the development of young people, it just happens to also be a cracking read! Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Chris Reed