Wide Awake -- David Levithan
Librarians will love this bit:
It felt good to be surrounded by books, by all this solid knowledge, by these objects that could be ripped page by page but couldn't be torn if the pages all held together. So much of the information we received was ephemeral--pixels on screen, words passing in the air. But here I felt that thoughts had weight.
Wide Awake is set "sometime in the near future". (I gauged it at about two generations forward -- when my generation will be about grandparent-age, if that makes sense.)
A new president has just been elected. He's gay and he's Jewish.
After reading that, you might be surprised at how Chapter Two begins:
I think it was the Jesus Freaks who were the happiest the next day at school. Most of the morning papers were saying that Stein's victory wouldn't have been possible without the Jesus Revolution in the church, and I don't think Mandy or Janna or any of the other members of The God Squad would've argued.
In the approximately fifty years between now and Wide-Awake-time, a lot has happened. (Clearly.) First, things got really bad -- gas prices hit over ten dollars a gallon, then there was the Greater Depression and the attempted War to End All Wars. Then things started to turn around -- the Prada Riots were part of it, Worldwide Healthcare was part of it, and part of it was the Jesus Revolution. People stood up and reminded each other that "Jesus would not cast stones at people of races, sexual orientations, or genders other than his own ... Jesus would welcome everyone to his table. He would love them, and he would find peace."
But all of that is really just the background. Wide Awake is the story of Duncan and Jimmy, of Keisha and Mira and Sara, of Janna and Mandy, of Virgil and Flora and Elwood and Gus and a boy named Sue. It's the story of a group of people who fought hard for their candidate, and what they did when the election results were threatened. It's also a love story and a growing up story and a story about politics and a story about change.
Phew. It's going to be interesting to see what the reaction is to this one. I have friends and family members and patrons who are all over the political spectrum, so when I read books like this I try to imagine their reaction -- I thought about it constantly while I read.
My first instinct says that people are going to like if their politics line up, and not like it -- or at the very least, feel very defensive -- if their politics don't. But I may not be giving people enough credit.
Obviously, as in all things, it's more complicated than that. It's very clear that David Levithan made an effort to NOT automatically alienate people. Some words that don't appear in the book: Democrat. Republican. Red State. Blue State. Bush.
Regardless, this book is going to piss off some people. With cover art like that and a lay-down date of September 12th and the fact that it can be read as a call for revolution, I think that's a given.
At the same time, it's a David Levithan book. First, duh, it's well-written. He doesn't focus on the negative and doesn't take cheap shots. The main characters are not all perfect and selfless. The people who support the opposition are not all bigots.
He's writing about the journey to a more ideal (in some minds, of course) world. A world that a lot of people (one would hope), regardless of political party, would like to see (even if they disagree about how to get there) -- where people treat each other well, regardless of differences in gender or sexual orientation or religion or skin color, where consumerism is less, erm, rampant and eco-friendly cars abound. Personally, even as the little heathen that I am, I found the idea of the 'Jesus Revolution' just... lovely. While I read, I imagined it catching on and spreading, especially among the younger-not-so-set-in-their-ways people. (I'm the child of hippies, okay? I still have some small spark of idealism. Of course it's an attractive idea.)
Chime in, you people who have read the book. I want to know what you all thought.