" I can't believe there's going to be a gay Jewish president."
so starts David Levithan's humourous, light-hearted, button-pushing political wallop of a novel. Set in the near future, Wide Awake features Duncan Weiss - a 17-year old gay, Jewish student who is elated when gay, Jewish Abe Stein is elected President of the United States. But all too quickly, things start to go wrong. The election is called into question and Duncan's relationship with his boyfriend Jimmy is called into question, too.
While I'm not one who bothers too much about politics, I just love the way the author manages to weave in a heartfelt love story with some political action. Of course as usual, I shall take out excerpts from the book that I found most entertaining ...
... When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Boston Tea Party. We didn't live near Boston, but that didn't matter. From the moment Ms. Coolidge first mentioned it in my third-grade class, I was hooked.
We were talking about the causes of the American Revolution, and Ms. Coolidge was typing them out on the class screen.
Taxation Without Representation.
The Boston Tea Party.
The Coercive Acts.
The Boston Massacre.
... and so forth. I know the word massacre is the one that should have told my eight-year-old-boy mind to perk up, but it was the phrase tea party that truly lit up my thoughts. I imagined it as a sort of birthday party where tea was served, and wondered how it had led to a big war. Had someone important not been invited? Was the host not happy with his presents?
When I got home, I decided to act it out with my stuffed animals. The British officers were penguins, the American revolutionaries were dogs. They were all getting together to celebrate Betsy Ross's birthday, and she decided to serve her special tea. (Betsy was played by Spotty, a beagle; I knew by then that I was a little too old to be referring to stuffed animals by their first names, but since I'd already given them their names when I was younger, I didn't see how I could suddenly stop using them now.) The party started with the utmost civility, with everyone speaking in very clipped British accents. But then King George spilled some of his tea onto Thomas Jefferson. TJ leaped up, yelling that he'd been burned. Other British soldiers, thinking they had to follow their king, started to pour their cups of tea on the colonists. Ben Franklin had tea poured in his eye, and Paul Revere's tail was dunked in a very large (i.e., adult-size) teacup. Betsy Ross went off to cry in a corner - she hadn't even had a chance to open her presents! - while George Washington (played by a terrier named Terry) charged in and started throwing tea back on the British. Since they were penguins, they were particularly scalded by this attack - and suddenly the whole tide of the revolution had turned. ....
Also, at one point in the book, I can't help but feel how much the paragraph below resonates in our current political scene / life. The last sentence, especially, really hit me.
... Other people pushed and prodded around us, trying to get nearer to the front, stepping over people's blankets and bags to get there. Something about all the movement and the closeness of it started to make me nervous. It was, I guess, another remnant from the Reign of Fear, when crowds were made to seem like dangerous things, vulnerable to the actions of a single person with a weapon and a willingness to use it. If isolation meant safety, then this was a high, high, risk. We'd been taught to never trust strangers. ...
Overall, it was a light read - just exactly what I was looking for. I think I might just be in to the 'young adult' literature scene for a while simply because of its simplicity.
Thumbs up for David Levithan!