‘I will, I will take care of you,’
To everything that is
— Hafiz, “And Love Says” (The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master, translated by Daniel Ladinsky)
The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
I really don’t know what to say about this one. While reading, I kept thinking “these are all of the reasons I never want to be in a relationship ever again, ever,” but at the same time, I couldn’t help thinking about how accurately Levithan captures how it feels to be in a relationship. That fact made me feel relieved, but also very alone, simultaneously.
The book is structured as an actual dictionary, with words that are defined on one to two pages, each entry a reflection on how that word pertains to an important relationship in the protagonist’s life. All of the entries are a look back on the span of this relationship, but they are mere glimpses for the reader. Reading this book could be equated to overhearing a lovers’ conversation or quarrel on the subway. You don’t necessarily get enough to paint a full picture of these two people’s life together, but you get a sense of how they are feeling in the moment, and can imagine what the interchange of words can lead to: harsh words means dinner plans are cancelled, whispered endearments mean tender hand-holding will ensue as they exit the subway car and make their way aboveground.
If you’ve ever had your heart broken, read this book. But maybe don’t read it if you’ve just had a breakup; it’ll only make you feel worse.
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
I was really into this book for about the first third. Having a protagonist who is intersex, and who has never really had to come to terms with being intersex until one act forces the issue, was quite fascinating. Exploring themes of sexuality from the viewpoint of someone who is not your classic teenager is an interesting way to frame a story, and I applaud Tarttelin for tackling something that American society is just beginning to open its eyes to. For that reason alone, this book is worth a look.
The reason the book lost me was twofold: one was that it is told in alternating voices from various characters. At first, I enjoyed this, but as time went on, I felt more and more that I was reading a Jodi Picoult novel (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my kind of book), which took away some of the gravitas for me. The second reason I started to feel a little lackluster had to do with the mother figure, whom I felt was painted, on the whole, (SPOILER ALERT, HERE, I SUPPOSE, SO MAYBE STOP READING) as a villain, even though she perceived her actions as good for her child (from a mother’s standpoint, I suppose that is true, but having alternate voices really enforced for me that she was in the wrong about most things, even objectively speaking).
I think, without the alternating narrators, this would’ve been a slam dunk for me, but it just started to feel so overwrought about halfway through that I tired of reading it. I haven’t spoken to too much of the content in this review because the way the story unfolds here is part of what makes it an interesting read.
When it comes down to it, I’m on the fence about recommending this one. For storyline and subject matter, yes: recommend. For multiple narrators that make the story seem overwrought: do not recommend.