Whenever I meet a couple, I inevitably wind up asking, "How did the two of you meet?" I am rarely disappointed with the answers to my question. Stories about love are rarely boring, and tales of "how we met" unite couples, becoming part of their personal and shared histories, the stories of their lives. Apparently young adult author David Levithan is also no stranger to the magic of couples' beginnings. In his new short story collection for teenagers, How They Met and Other Stories, Levithan offers 18 stories about attraction, many of which focus on how people find each other—and love.
We meet a boy and girl who make an instant connection on an airplane, only to find out years later that a secret Cupid might have arranged their rendezvous. There's Gabriel, the reluctant babysitter who falls in love with the "Starbucks boy" when his precocious charge demands daily visits to the neighborhood coffee shop. There are the equally compelling stories of how one narrator's two sets of grandparents met—in very different circumstances. Given the age of Levithan's protagonists, it's not surprising that several of the stories—for better or for worse—center on the prom. In "The Good Witch," a boy's overly girly-girl prom date prompts him to come out to her—and to himself. In "Andrew Chang," an obligatory prom set-up turns into a serendipitous meeting. In "Skipping the Prom," one couple's romantic evening is tinged with sadness for the endings that are to come. High school and college romances are often transitory, and, like "Skipping the Prom," many of the stories here have a bittersweet quality. Lovers are left behind when the other grows up or moves on, hearts are broken—but the stories almost always hold out the promise of better, more lasting loves to come.
Many of these stories have their own genesis in Levithan's tradition of writing an annual Valentine's Day story, and some of them date back to his own high school years. Alternately squirmingly awkward, painfully funny, agonizingly sad, these stories are, above all, achingly true—as complex and endlessly fascinating as love itself.