Book review: Hold Me Closer by David Levithan

Hold Me Closer by David Levithan
Series: Will Grayson, Will Grayson #2
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Source: Borrowed

It’s Tiny Cooper’s turn in the spotlight in this companion novel to New York Times bestseller Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Jazz hands at the ready! Tiny Cooper (“the world’s largest person who is also really, really gay”) stole readers’ hearts when he was introduced to the world in the New York Times bestselling book Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-authored by John Green and David Levithan. Now Tiny finally gets to tell his story—from his fabulous birth and childhood to his quest for true love and his infamous parade of ex-boyfriends—the way he always intended: as a musical! Filled with honesty, humor, and “big, lively, belty” musical numbers, the novel is told through the full script of the musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

It’s once again time for me to say, “I really wasn’t meaning to read this any time soon even though it’s been on my TBR forever, but I saw it at the library and couldn’t resist.” HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I SAID THIS. So many times.

According to Goodreads, I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson back in 2012. That sounds about right, because I remember reading it in my favorite apartment ever right before I left Wisconsin for New Jersey. I am generally not a big fan of standalones randomly getting sequels (or, sorry, “companion novels”) years later, but I loved Tiny Cooper and therefore added this to my TBR almost four years ago. And there it sat, on my TBR, being completely ignored, until I saw David Levithan just next to Mackenzi Lee in my library’s YA section.

The book was fun, I’ll give it that. I enjoyed reading it. I was entertained. But I didn’t feel much of a connection with Tiny, which is sad because even six years after reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I remember that I loved his character. Maybe that’s just what happens when you wait six years between books.

This exchange between a five-year-old Tiny and his babysitter is probably my favorite part of this book —

Lynda: Don’t get trapped into thinking people are halves instead of wholes.
Tiny: People are halves?
Lynda: They’re not trying to sell you on it yet, but believe me, they will. The idea that two is the ideal, and that one is only good as half of two. You are not a half, and you should never treat someone else like a half. Agreed?
Tiny: Agreed!

But I also really loved Djane’s advice toward the end of the book:

Ninety-seven percent of the time, it all comes down to this: Don’t do what you don’t want to do. Ask yourself that simple question: Do I want to do this? If the answer is yes, go for it. If it’s anything but yes, don’t.

This isn’t the best book that I’ve read this year, but it’s far from the worst. If you liked Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I’d recommend it. Otherwise, you can probably skip it.

Have you read Hold Me Closer? What about Will Grayson, Will Grayson?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2016

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  It’s already the last one of 2016!  Today’s theme is the best of 2016.  I read a lot of great books this year, so rather than agonize over which ones to include, I’m using this as a general overview of my favorites.  In early 2017, I’ll have a more detailed list available for you, broken down by genre.

Below are Goodreads links for all titles included in the graphics:

[since you’ve been gone] [koreatown] [are you there god? it’s me margaret]
[what we saw] [the unexpected everything] [lured in] [you know me well]
[me before you] [some kind of perfect] [made you up]

What were your favorites of 2016?

Book review: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

Goodreads   Amazon

Wow. Just… wow.

ersatz, n.
Sometimes we’d go to a party and I would feel like an artificial boyfriend, a placeholder, a boyfriend-shaped space where a charming person should be. Those were the only times when my love for you couldn’t overcome my shyness. And every degree of disappointment I’d feel from you – whether real or of my own invention – would make me disappear further and further, leaving the fake front to nod, to sip, to say, “Finish your drink, we’re leaving.”

I think you need to be in a specific mindset to appreciate this book, and I was there when I read it. I wish I could share all of the passages that made me smile, laugh, and cry. But, unfortunately, that’s more than half of this book, and I’m not too sure that it’s legal to share that much of a copyrighted work. So you’ll just have to trust me.

corrode, v.
I spent all this time building a relationship. Then one night I left the window open, and it started to rust.

Read this book if you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship. Read this book if you’ve ever wondered how amazing and wonderful and awful it is to share so much of yourself with someone else. Read this book if you’re heartbroken. Read this book if you’re desperately in love.

abyss, n.
There are times when I doubt everything. When I regret everything you’ve taken from me, everything I’ve given you, and the waste of all the time I’ve spent on us.

This book is so honest. It’s very, very short – only 211 pages, most of which only contain a few sentences. But it somehow captures all the highs and lows of a relationship.

voluminous, adj.
I have already spent roughly five thousand hours asleep next to you. This has to mean something.

This is the Levithan I remember from my teenage years. Sure, this book is aimed more at adults than teens. And, needless to say, the format it a bit different than his usual. But it’s 100% his style. Even with these short dictionary entries, he still has the ability to evoke such emotion.

reservation, n.
There are times when I worry that I’ve already lost myself. That is, that my self is so inseparable from being with you that if we were to separate, I would no longer be. I save this thought for when I feel the darkest discontent. I never meant to depend so much on someone else.

I’m glad that I waited to read this book. Had I read it in 2011 when it came out, I don’t think it would have had as much of an impact on me. I want to give this book a hug.

Final rating: ★★★★★

ARC review: You Know Me Well by David Levithan & Nina LaCour

You Know Me Well by David Levithan & Nina LaCour
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

It’s been eight years since I graduated from high school, but the feeling that David Levithan and Nina LaCour capture in this book, in the last few days of the school year, is exactly what I remember.

Mark is finishing up his junior year of high school, trying to decide whether he wants to let his best friend/often-more-than-a-friend Ryan know that he wants to step firmly into more-than-friends territory. While out at a bar, Ryan dares the usually subdued Mark to compete in an underwear dancing contest. To Ryan’s surprise, Mark obliges. To Mark’s dismay, this does not make Ryan see him as any more of a romantic prospect than he did five minutes ago.

What this does, though, is get the attention of Kate, a senior in Mark’s calculus class. While this could have been disatrous, Mark and Kate actually form a fast friendship, bonding over their mutual love disasters. Kate is in love with her best friend’s cousin, Violet, from afar. The two have never met, never spoken, never even texted, but Kate knows that she’s in love. Her best friend tells her that Violet feels the same way. But for some reason, when it comes time for the two of them to meet, Kate bolts. She runs right into Mark’s underwear dance, and the rest is history.

(Well, not really. This is just the setup for the book. The rest is about 200 pages, featuring Kate’s anxiety at leaving for college, Mark’s very real struggle to accept Ryan’s feelings, and the friendship that builds between these two former strangers over the course of just a few days.)

This book took me right back to my childhood bedroom, a thousand miles from where I am now, both literally and figuratively. It took me back to that feeling of being terrified about my future, excited about moving on but unsure of what would happen to all of my relationships as I moved on to the next chapter in my life.

This book is coming-of-age at its best, when you’re forming new friendships while trying not to leave the old ones behind. When you want desperately for things to stay the same, but you’re also ready for a change. When you struggle with staying in your familiar friendship, or letting your friend know that you’ve developed more-than-friendly feelings for them. It perfectly encapsulates that feeling of growing up and having to make all these decisions and not knowing which one is right.

I can’t imagine not giving this book five stars. Because this is the David Levithan I remember. This is what kept me reading his books, one right after another, when I was the same age as Mark and Kate. I loved this book so much, and now, please excuse me while I check out all of the David Levithan and Nina LaCour books in my library.

A big thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for the advance copy!

Book review: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Goodreads   Amazon

I was deep in the throes of college when Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares came out. Back in 2010, I was probably doing something really ridiculous like taking multiple literature classes in the same semester or working three part-time jobs. Definitely not a lot of time for reading YA contemporaries.

But somehow I managed to notice this book, probably because it’s by two of my favorite authors from my high school years: David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. I’ve previously talked about how much I love Levithan’s books. I’ve read a lot of them. I’d like to read a lot more. I feel pretty similar about Cohn. I was a big fan of her Cyd Charisse trilogy back in the day. I also loved Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which was another book co-written by these authors.

Lucky for me, my library had an available copy of Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, so finally, after all this time, I was able to read it.

And it was okay.

I guess.

The idea of the book is really engaging. I would give it three stars for that alone.

Dash finds a mysterious red notebook shelved in The Strand, a bookstore in New York City. (Which I still have yet to visit, despite having probably walked by it many times. Note to self: Get to The Strand.) The notebook dares him to find some books to piece together a message, at which point he begins exchanging the notebook with Lily, its owner. The two of them dare each other to do increasingly outlandish things. Find a specific pair of reindeer mittens at Macy’s. Go to FAO Schwartz at the height of Christmas shopping. Sneak out of the house to go to a midnight show at a bar. (They’re sixteen years old.) So on, so forth. For a good half of the book or so, they haven’t met. Their attraction is built solely on words.

Where it falls apart is in the characters.

Dash is a pretentious hipster, who, at sixteen years old, is exhausted with life. He’s so fed up with everything and everyone, especially his parents. He hates Christmas. He is so happy to have fooled his divorced parents into leaving him alone for the holidays. His parents don’t talk, so his dad thinks he’s with his mom and his mom thinks he’s with his dad. Both parents are away on vacations with their new significant others. He’s often referred to as “snarly” by the people Lily employs to pass along her messages.

Lily is a cinnamon roll in human form. She loooves Christmas. She loves puppies. She actually likes hanging out with her great aunt and her grandpa. She sees the good in everybody. She doesn’t have a lot of friends, but she gets along with everyone. She’s easily excited, to the point of being nicknamed “Shrilly.” Lily’s parents are in Fiji for the holidays, and her reaction is the polar opposite of Dash’s – she’s miserable about it.

You might think that opposites attract. You might think that this relationship would work.

For me, it didn’t.

Dash is the emotional equivalent of an elderly man. Lily is the emotional equivalent of a child. What do they have to talk about? (Just their mutual love of books.) What do they have in common? (Books.) Sure, it’s romantic to think that a love of books trumps everything else, but it’s just not realistic. One day, these kids are going to have to talk about something other than their mutual love of The Strand or whatever, and their little bubble is going to shatter.

For a quick book that takes place over a couple days, it was nice. But I have no faith that these two would still be together next week, let alone a few months down the line.

It’s a cute book, and a very quick read. I just wish Dash and Lily would have seemed more suited for each other.

Final rating:


I’m abandoning the idea of carefully planning out what I’m going to read.  It always fails.  I only ended up reading one of the books I listed on my last book queue, so here we have three books I’ve currently checked out from the library.  Three books that I will almost certainly finish.  (Three books that it would be really unusual for me not to finish.)  Three very different books.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown // Outsider in the White House // Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

What are you planning on reading next?