Thursday, February 24, 2011

book review: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover's Dictionary: A NovelThe basics: The Lover's Dictionary is a love story told through alphabetical dictionary entires.

My thoughts: There is something about David Levithan's writing that is both earnest and cool. As I was reading this short, little novel, I was reminded of Stephen Chbosky's brilliant novel, Perks of Being a Wallflower. Levithan and Chbosky both get it. They can be smart, funny, self-deprecating, and honest. Levithan inspired this female reader to see myself both in the male protagonist and in the woman he loves.

Levithan's humor provides a beautiful balance to the sweeter entries:
avant-garde, adj.
This was after Alisa's show, the reverse-blackface rendition of Gone with the Wind, including songs from the Empire Records soundtrack and an interval of nineteenth-century German poetry, recited with a lisp.
 "What does avant-garde mean, anyway?" I asked.
"I believe it translates as favor to your friends," you replied. 
One of the most impressing aspects of this novel is the amount of characterization Levithan managed to convey. It's a testament to non-linear storytelling with amazing character development. There is a universality to love and its correlating emotions (and vocabulary) that makes this novel excel. Yes, there are the details of the two individuals, but there are also intentionally vague aspects that encourage the reader to place him or herself in the position of either (or both) character(s).

At times, I felt I was reading a teen novel because so many of these emotional memories are tied to the teen years, but this novel is very much an adult love story (and not just because of the sex.) There's an awareness and maturity to many of the definitions.

While jokes referencing Empire Records may be especially poignant to those who are my age and a little older (Levithan was born in 1972), this novel will appeal to those younger and even a little older. Coming of age tales never quite go out of style, and neither do love stories. Levithan infuses both with grace and humor.

Favorite passages: "There is no word for the recipient of the love. There is only a word for the giver. There is the assumption that lovers come in pairs." (from lover, n.)

The verdict: The Lover's Dictionary is a delightful, engaging, and endearing tale of love. It made my toes curl with its romance and it made me cry with its honesty.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 224 pages
Publication date: January 4, 2011
Source: my local public library

Treat yourself! Buy The Lover's Dictionary from Amazon (in hardback or Kindle version) or from The Book Depository.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!


  1. Very cool to come across this review, as I had not really heard anything about this book, and it sounds like it would be an excellent fit for me. I like the small excerpts that you posted and I love the comment that it made your toes curl and that you wept a little bit. This one goes on the short list. Thanks for the amazing review!

  2. I've had this book on my radar ever since I read the first review. It sounds so unique.

  3. I keep hearing about this book. I'm hesitant to purchase it because I bought Dash and Lily in January and wish I had borrowed it instead. But maybe I'll crack someday soon. (Ahem, I was obsessed with Empire Records... I own and watch it still -- occasionally).

  4. Oh man, this totally sounds like my kind of book and I like how it's a little different from the norm!

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