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The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
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The Lover's Dictionary

by David Levithan

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7907511,626 (3.98)31
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Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
This book was wonderful. It was a quick read (around 2 hours). It goes through every letter of the alphabet, each letter representing 2 or 3 words that accompany passages describing moments in the life of a couple. There are ups and downs. There is laughter, there are tears. There are loving moments, moments of vulnerability. There are fights, and there are betrayals.
This book offers a series of snapshots, not a complete narrative, which I thought was a completely appropriate way to tell this particular story. Of course I have questions about what happened in between the snapshots, but perhaps that is not for us to know.
I highly recommend this book. ( )
  DanielleMD | Jun 20, 2015 |
David Levithan is one of the very few authors I've read who can be completely, wildly creative and yet never feel forced or weird. I always love his writing, and this is definitely one, among many, of his finest books.
My full review is here, on Hot Stuff for Cool People. ( )
  hotforcool | May 31, 2015 |
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 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:21 -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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