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The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover's Dictionary

by David Levithan

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7827311,788 (3.96)31
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I loved this book and a want to get to know these people better. Reading this book felt a little like reading a diary a little like reading the dictionary.
Here is a sample:

obstinate, adj.
Sometimes it becomes a contest: Which is more stubborn, the love or the two arguing people caught within it? ( )
  mlake | Apr 28, 2015 |
I really wanted to like this book. I was excited about the idea of this book, and its interesting and different format. But it just did not deliver. It's possible I went in with too many expectations, or was just unable to break out of my own preconceived notions of what this book would be. I was anticipating a story of love, told in chronological order, progressing through the dictionary from beginning to end. What I got instead was a disjointed relationship told in alphabetical order, disregarding timeline. And that would have been fine! It's rare that we are presented a story out of the generally accepted order. But without the typical chronology, all my focus shifted to the entries, and I just really felt that the words and their stories did not meld well most of the time. I gave up about halfway through, because I just could not bring myself to care anymore. ( )
  photonegative | Apr 14, 2015 |
This slim, little gem of a novel can be read in 1 or 2 wonderful sittings. I LOVED it. It reminded me a lot of Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, as it gives the reader bits and pieces of a relationship hurt by infidelity. Also like her book, it reads like a poem. Some of the lines just made my jaw drop. It’s truly beautiful writing. I was so enamored that I visited David Levithan’s website and learned that he’s written a ton of stuff. I had no idea. He describes The Lover’s Dictionary as “the story of a two-year relationship, told in dictionary entries that one lover is writing for the other.” He says, “I happened to have a book on ‘words you need to know’ (a graduation gift from high school) on my desk, and I decided to try to tell a relationship story using one word from each page spread in this book. And the novel grew from that.” It’s very clever and very engaging. The fact that there is so much emotional impact with relatively few words is a testament to his writing. I can’t wait to read more of his stuff.

A section I loved:
"These words will ultimately end up being the barest of reflections, devoid of the sensations words cannot convey. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough." ( )
  KimHooperWrites | Feb 13, 2015 |
Loved it! Super quick read, but I am glad I own it as I will probably read it multiple times. ( )
  carebear10712 | Jan 8, 2015 |
"The Lover's Dictionary" tells the story of two people and how they fell in love. It's not a retelling of how they met but rather a collection of quick moments in their lives that, some more, some less, shaped them as a couple.

Due to the fact that the story isn't told in a linear way, it is somewhat difficult to keep up with the story and it takes some getting used to. Levithan manages to make the reader connect emotionally to the narrator without even revealing his name. This is actually one of the best cases of extremely sporadic but great character building I've read about.

I imagine this to be of essential help for aspiring authors - this is how you build characters, you give them personality and not appearance, you give them quirks and not a tragic backstory. I was engaged in the story and invested and I wanted desperately to know what was going to happen.

I rooted for the story to continue the traditional way, marriage, kids et cetera, but again Levithan stays far away from the norm. That's what I love about his novels, that he doesn't try but always ends up on the unconventional, unexplored pathways. The special thing about this novel isn't the fact that the two proatgonists remain nameless, but the format. It's told in dictionary entries. While this might sound extremely strange and make people back away from this novel, I can assure you that you're missing something. When I discovered it in the bookstore and saw the name of the author on it, I just knew that I had to take the risk - because Levithan knows what he's doing and hasn't disappointed me so far.

"The Lover's Dictionary" can't really be described, it's not a story, it's more of a feeling. It's not your typical everyday novel that's why this review is lacking individual ratings. It can be read in a day or over the course of weeks, the effect stays the same. I fell in love with the characters the way they fell in love - entry after entry. Levithan uses mostly difficult words in this, I was lucky to be reading the novel in a foreign language anyways, so I didn't have to look anything up, because it was all translated from English. Some of the words I never would have understood because they're sometimes extremely old-fashioned and even pretentious, but the effect stays the same.

I was a bit sad that the entire plot revolves only around their love, not because it's boring to read about, but because I longed for being able to dive in more into their world. This is defnitely worth a read, maybe even multiple. Some passages were so poetic and probably even foreshadowing and I think that it is impossible to get all the references during your first read.

Overall: Do I Recommend?

Yes I do. I know this novel might not be for everyone, this is why I don't explicitly put this on my recommendations page, but I know that for everyone that is a risk-taker - this might be exactly what you're looking for. "The Lover's Dictionary" is poetic, it's more an artwork than a novel and it leaves you wirh a weird feeling. Maybe it's love. I wouldn't know.

Rating: ★★★★☆
- See more at: http://thebookavid.blogspot.de ( )
  bookavid | Oct 16, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374193681, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2011: In his first book for adults, popular young-adult novelist David Levithan creates a beautifully crafted exploration of the insecurities, tenderness, anger, and contented comfort that make romantic relationships so compelling (or devastating). Through sparingly written, alphabetical entries that defy chronology in defining a love affair, The Lover’s Dictionary packs an emotional wallop. For "breathtaking (adj.)," the unnamed narrator explains, "Those moments when we kiss and surrender for an hour before we say a single word." For "exacerbate (v.)," he notes, "I believe your exact words were: 'You’re getting too emotional.'" Ranging from over a page to as short as "celibacy (n.), n/a," the definitions-as-storyline alternate between heart-wrenching and humorous--certainly an achievement for a book structured more like Webster’s than a traditional novel. Proving that enduring characters and conflict trump word count, Levithan’s poignant vignettes and emotional candor will remind readers that sometimes in both fiction and life, less is truly more--and the personal details of love can be remarkably universal. --Jessica Schein

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with David Levithan

Q: What inspired you to write The Lover’s Dictionary?

Levithan: Every year for the past 23 years, I’ve written a story for my friends for Valentine’s Day. It started when I was a junior in high school and remarkably bored in my physics class--I decided to go through the physics book and find all the romantic references I could (opposites attracting, magnetism, etc), and turn it into a love story. My friends liked it, and the next year, they demanded a new story for Valentine’s Day. A tradition (or, at least, a deadline) was born.

Two years ago, I hit February 1st and I hadn’t started writing my Valentine’s Day story. I had a few ideas, but none were kicking in. I sat down at my desk to thing something up, and right by an elbow was a book I’d recently recovered from my parents’ basement--a book of “words you need to know” that I’d been given as a gift (probably for my high school graduation). I thought it might be interesting to take random words from that book, in alphabetical order, and tell the story of a relationship through those words, in dictionary form. I didn’t plan any of it out--I let the words tell the story. And two weeks later, I had the story version of The Lover’s Dictionary.

Q: How (if at all) was the experience of writing what is classified as an adult novel different from writing a young adult novel? Did you approach the emotion of love differently?

Levithan: I didn’t approach this book any differently from my other books. Because, really, the emotions don’t change. Perspective changes (a little, sometimes not even a little), but the emotions are still there. Yes, the twenty-something characters in The Lover’s Dictionary are facing some issues most teens don’t face--moving in together, paying rent. But most of what they’re feeling is merely a continuation of the emotions that come to the fore when you’re a teenager--wanting to belong, wanting to understand yourself, wanting to understand the person you love, wanting to know what love is. I’d love to say that when we become adults we stop being insecure, that we have answers, that we know the right words for the right moments. But that’s simply not true.

Q: Were there any words/definitions that didn’t make it in to the final book?

Levithan: Not that many. I just went back to the first draft and found one:

haggle, v. There was no way I was letting the Atlanta Braves lamp to our apartment, and you said, fine, then my lunchbox collection could go back to my parents’ basement, where it belonged.

I’m not even sure why it didn’t make the cut. Maybe there were already too many entries about decorating the apartment.

Q: The Lover’s Dictionary isn’t a linear story and is organized alphabetically, much like a traditional reference dictionary. How (if at all) did you change your writing process knowing that it would unfold this way?

Levithan: I loved writing in a nonlinear way. Because it feels to me like a more accurate way of how we recount relationships. They never come back to us as a narrative, told beginning-middle-end. Whether it’s over or ongoing, we remember it in flashes. Different moments from the past hit us at different moments in the present. So when the narrator sits down to recount the relationship to the lover, it makes sense to me that the relationship would appear to him in this way, with the words as the catalyst for the memories, and the memories adding up to the truth.

Q: Why did you decide to write the novel in first person, directed at a second person?

Levithan: The act of writing the book (for the narrator) is as much a part of the story as the story itself. I don’t want to explain the book too much, so I can leave it at that. And I wanted it to play like a love song you hear on the radio--the most effective love songs are somehow both specific and universal. You feel you are hearing someone else’s story, but at the same time you relate to it so much that their story doesn’t preclude your story. I wanted The Lover’s Dictionary to be like that.

Q: Describe how you feel about writing in three words.

Levithan: Wonderment. Curiosity. Random.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:33 -0400)

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A modern love story told through a series of dictionary-style entries is a sequence of intimate windows into the large and small events that shape the course of a romantic relationship.

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