"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Thursday, February 20, 2014

About Me and "The Lover's Dictionary"

The Lover's DictionaryThe Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BE AWARE: The next to last paragraph of this review may constitute a spoiler.

I was prepared to give this book four stars out of five right up until I read the last entry--the one for the letter Z. I had not expected to like this book, but I did. I did not expect to be hooked by this book, but I was. I suppose if I had not liked nor been hooked by this book, I would have cared much less about the betrayal of the reader that is the final chapter.

Still, let's grant what works, which is most everything in the entries for the first 25 letters of the alphabet. First off there is wit and there is humor. The prose is lively, accessible, and thought-provoking. It greets the reader like a great first date. Though the format is devoutly episodic, a well-constructed character arc sustains the suspense over the book's full length. There is the deepening sense of a fling turned into a longer fling turned into a genuine relationship.

There is celebration. There is mourning. There are idiosyncracies. This book masterfully plays out the savory messiness of coupling. There are chocolates and flowers in the form of brilliant notions well worth espousing. There are chapters where I found myself arguing with the book and then realizing arguing is okay. It happens. You can learn from it. You can come out of it stronger and closer.

Then I arrived at the letter Z. The letter Z provides no closure. On purpose. The letter Z tries to make an orgasm out of uncertainity. It tries to enshrine the tension of wondering what will happen after your companion says, "There's something we need to talk about." For a book that spends so much of itself achieving marvelous realizations, the choice to end on a question mark feels like a cop-out.

To be clear, I think this is a four star book. But right now I need to punish it for betraying me. So, The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan, I am only giving you three stars. I am also saying we are done. I slam the door in your face. I say that you failed me when I needed you most. When I needed a romantic novel with the courage to say that all relationships end either in breakup or death, you chickened out. You dashed my hope and I do not think I can forgive you. All that great writing just so I can find out right at the end you are a tease?

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