When the first World Trade Center tower is hit on 9/11, high school senior Claire worries about her mother at work and her brother across the street in elementary school; classmate Peter, skipping study hall to buy the new Bob Dylan album at Tower Records and dreaming of his first date with Jasper, wonders how listening to music will ever be the same; and Korean American Jasper, at home until his college classes begin, sleeps through it all and wakes to emptiness. In the eloquent Love Is the Higher Law, these young adults’ lives intertwine in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before the tragic event.
The focus of this episodic story is not on what happened on September 11, 2001, but during the hours, days and weeks afterward. Temporarily forced away from home, breathing in the dust of the remains and peering at the immense hole left behind, the three teens wonder how they will ever sleep, date and feel again. From even simple acts, such as a shoe store handing out free sneakers to fleeing workers, they discover that surviving is finding the gratitude in one another.
Author David Levithan’s repertoire includes Boy Meets Boy and other masterful love stories. While romance may be a possibility for Peter and Jasper, the real love in this novel is for New York City and humanity. Taking its name from a U2 lyric, the slim but powerful story also features pop culture song lyrics that continue to strike a chord with today’s hearts. Teen readers, just children on 9/11, may remember the facts from watching them on television, but Love Is the Higher Law relates the emotions of that day, defined by Before and After, and how we all began living in the After that rocked the world.
Angela Leeper is a librarian at the University of Richmond.