Wide Awake

David Levithan
  • Review
By – May 14, 2012

This young adult nov­el is set in the future, where 16-year-old Dun­can is thrilled that a gay Jew­ish man, Abe Stein, has been elect­ed pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. In this ground­break­ing book, the first about a gay Jew­ish teen, the author explores Duncan’s rela­tion­ship with his boyfriend, Jim­my (includ­ing describ­ing them enjoy­ing sex) and his feel­ings about Judaism. Dun­can says that he believes in the lin­eage of being Jew­ish: light­ing Shab­bat can­dles, cel­e­brat­ing Rosh Hashanah, fast­ing on Yom Kippur”…but he isn’t sure about God and faith. Lat­er he explains Passover to a 13-year-old boy he meets, who has adopt­ed Judaism despite his par­ents’ stren­u­ous objections. 

When the gov­er­nor of the state of Kansas con­tests the election’s out­come, Dun­can, Jim­my and their friends (includ­ing some les­bian girls) take a bus to Kansas to help Stein against those try­ing to dis­qual­i­fy him. Duncan’s world is pop­u­lat­ed with peo­ple called The Decents,” who dis­like Dun­can and Jim­my because they are a mixed Jew­ish- black homo­sex­u­al cou­ple, label­ing them and their actions as Inde­cent.”

The author weaves in his feel­ings about pol­i­tics, as he talks about the advances the world has made since the Greater Depres­sion” which was caused by debt, deficit and fuel depres­sion, the Reign of Fear” after 9/11, and the progress made in secur­ing rights for women, gays and les­bians. He works in his feel­ings against the war in Iraq by giv­ing Dun­can a bit­ter, unfair teacher who was an Iraq Re-enac­tor.” Levithan also intro­duces a clever con­cept, where teens go shop­ping at the unmall” and select some­thing to buy (cool jeans, etc.) but instead donate the pur­chase amount they would have spent to a char­i­ty they choose. This book will engage those young adults inter­est­ed in pol­i­tics, rela­tion­ships, reli­gion and their place in the world. For ages 16 and up, due to mature themes.

Andrea David­son is the librar­i­an of The Tem­ple-Tifer­eth Israel in Beach­wood, Ohio. She holds an M.L.S. from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan and is a for­mer mem­ber of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards Com­mit­tee. She enjoys try­ing out the books she reviews on the kids at the Tem­ple and on her grandchildren.

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