Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel

February has always been my favorite month. Yes, my birthday may have something to do with it, but the shortest month of the year has its own charms.

You see, February is an oasis. When Christmas is a memory and everyone is ready for the winter to be OVER ALREADY, warmth breaks through the cold and the bitter. Everything becomes flushed and heart-shaped. People get cozy, send flowers, hold hands. There’s candy and Cupids and cards and chocolate and cupcakes and cuteness and craving and creativity.

So the day has been commercialized. So you should be celebrating love year-round. So you may not have a significant other. So the holiday commemorates a beheaded saint. So what? Valentine’s Day lets you take a look at the people in your life and say “I care about you” however you want to say it. Grand gestures. Small murmurs of appreciation. As for me, well…I say “I love you” with books.

I’m celebrating Valentine’s Day and the week following it with books about love, and I’m kicking it off with The Lover’s Dictionary. It’s almost too beautiful for words, which seems kind of silly seeing how its backbone is vocabulary. (The concept is similar to A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, a novel I enjoyed a few years back. However, TLD hits harder because its entries are so brief.) Maybe my own words can’t do it justice, but I can try:

Brevity (n.) The way a vignette can make you laugh and drop your stomach with recognition in the span of two sentences.

Captivated (adj.) Being so sure of how it will end but having your expectations thwarted and your emotions held hostage by surprise. See: brushing up against something extraordinary.

Ebullient (adj.) Pertaining to a heart that wells up when reading, esp. when appreciating thoughtful word choices and savoring playful turns of phrase.

Haphazard (adj.) How bits and pieces of a relationship, presented out of order, can give you such a full picture of two individuals.

Lyrical (adj.) Used to describe prose and placement that seems as effortless as a falling snowflake but has been polished to ice by a sharp editorial eye.

Pine (v.) To yearn for the best and worst parts of an old relationship as you’re reading. To want to share things they might enjoy but not know when or if or to what extent you can be friends again. To want to say I’m sorry and regret nothing.

Recognition (n.) The discovery that both flawed protagonists resemble you in a remarkable fashion.

Revelation (n.) What this book is.

I will be purchasing this book for myself as a Valentine’s Day gift. I suggest you do so as well.


  1. Wow, an appropriate book to review on V-Day. ^_^

    Happy Spread-the-Love Day! Luv ya!

  2. See what I did there?

    Awww, thanks for the luv! Right back atcha. :)

  3. Lovely post! I've been meaning to check out this book because I've met/heard David Levithan speak a couple times and he's fantastic! Glad to hear it exceeded expectations!

  4. Thanks! :) I'm super impressed with him and now feel like I need to get my hands on more of his books. Luckily, he's prolific.

  5. hi--I'm a new follower who found you through my friend's blog at Wildly Read. Rebecca's review also made *me* buy this book and review it!

  6. Hi! Thanks for stopping by. It's always nice to meet new internet people. :)