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Wide Awake

Review

Wide Awake

In the musical "Man of La Mancha," Don Miguel de Cervantes is thrown into prison, put on trial by his fellow inmates, and charged with being an idealist on an insane crusade. To answer these charges, he challenges the very notion of sanity, proclaiming that too much sanity might be madness and, perhaps the maddest of all, is to "see life as it is and not what it ought to be."

In WIDE AWAKE, David Levithan assumes the mantle of a modern-day Cervantes, challenging readers to do just that by not only imagining what can be but working to see that dreams can become reality. When the story opens, Abe Stein has just been elected the first gay Jewish president of the United States. It was a narrow (he wins by only one state) but an important victory. High school student Duncan Weiss and his boyfriend, Jimmy, who have been volunteering at the local Stein headquarters leading up to the election, couldn't be happier. But the morning after the voting, questions arise about the handling of ballots in Kansas, the state that won Stein the election. The important victory is suddenly cast into doubt as Stein's opponents begin a seemingly unscrupulous campaign to have their candidate declared the winner.

As the country becomes mired in intense political debate, Stein himself sends out a call to his supporters: "I am going to Kansas...I want you, the American people...to come to Kansas, too. I want you there beside me to prevent an injustice from occurring. I want our opponents to see the faces of all the people they are trying to deceive. I want them to know they will not get away with it."

As Stein's supporters prepare to descend upon Kansas, Duncan finds himself caught between his desire to help and the fears he and his parents share about Kansas being a "volatile" place. His doubts drive a wedge between him and Jimmy, and soon Duncan has to choose between playing it safe and defying his parents to stand up for what he believes in.

As he did in BOY MEETS BOY, Levithan invites readers into a mirror society, so much like our own but with aspects that are closer to what ours should be. In Levithan's world, shopping involves making donations to charities and idealism is nothing to be ashamed of. And the most mesmerizing aspect of this society, touched by compassion and a burgeoning sense of justice, is that while your brain is telling you it's fiction, Levithan's deft writing counters, "Yeah....but it could happen."

Make no mistake: this book will challenge you to question your own belief structure and ask the central question: what are you willing to do for something you believe in? Few authors, YA or otherwise, can so expertly beguile with visions of a thousand possibilities, then turn around and offer a rallying cry. WIDE AWAKE will excite you, ignite you, and most importantly, make you believe.

One person. That's all it takes to start a revolution. WIDE AWAKE is a challenge. Will you accept?

Reviewed by Brian Farrey on September 12, 2006

Wide Awake
by David Levithan

  • Publication Date: September 9, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0375834672
  • ISBN-13: 9780375834677