By Megan Whalen
As the author of literary staples like “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” and “Boy Meets Boy,” David Levithan has become a well-known name in the universe of Young Adult fiction.
However, with “The Lover’s Dictionary,” Levithan makes his first foray out of the high school novel and into adult fiction, and he does so with complete success.
In “The Lover’s Dictionary,” Levithan maintains the theme of love and relationships present in many of his young adult novels, but this time, his focus is on that of adults and the beautiful, confusing world of dating in modern society.
This aptly named book showcases Levithan’s creativity and innovation within the novel form. The plot outlines a modern-day love story about two people living in New York City, which in and of itself is perhaps not a new concept.
However, in lieu of the typical chapters one might find in a novel, Levithan tells the story of his lovers through dictionary entries.
From A to Z, the book uses snapshot scenes of the fictional relationship to define words associated with love and relationships.
The novel stays true to the dictionary form, paying more attention to alphabetizing the words being defined than to creating a linear story.
Although, in theory, this may result in a confusing mishmash of scenes, Levithan’s expertise at storytelling shines extremely brightly, and the plot and timeline of the romance are never hard to understand.
In fact, the non-linear form makes the mundane, everyday experiences of being in a relationship—whether cuddling on a snowy day or getting annoyed when your significant other leaves the toothpaste open—the most important and defining moments of the novel.
This gives a completely realistic quality to a story whose innovative form makes reading a new, exciting experience.
Just as he does in his many young adult novels, David Leviathan creates a beautiful, truthful portrait of what relationships are really like in “The Lover’s Dictionary.”
Although the book offers definitions of everything from “breathtaking” to “tactiturn,” the core of the story ultimately hinges on the question, “How is love defined?” And, in the end, David Levithan leaves it up to us to decide.