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Love Is the Higher Law



NYC teens react to 9/11 tragedy in beautiful story of hope.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers too young to remember the attack will get a good history lesson about what happened -- including what it felt like to be a New York teen at the time. Parents and teachers can use our "Families Can Talk About" section to get some additional discussion ideas.

Positive messages

Strong messages about the power of friendship and family; descriptions of how New Yorkers pulled together in the aftermath of 9/11 and showed compassion for one another. Ultimately the story is about hope and the better side of humanity.

Positive role models

Two of the three main characters immediately want to help; they go to donate blood and look for ways to deal with the emotional impact. The third character is slower to deal with the tragedy but ultimately allows it to have a positive effect on his life and his relationships with other people. As we remember but teen readers won't, New Yorkers themselves set exemplary examples on the day of the attack and afterwards.


Descriptions of watching the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center fall and burn.


A discussion about gay men having sex without condoms. The two main male characters go on a date and make out. 


 A few uses of "f--k" and "s--t."


Evocative use of songs, song lyrics, and descriptions of real concerts by groups like U2 that took place afterwards in NYC.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The two male characters drink beer together; one of them is hungover the morning of 9/11.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the main story is how three teens experience the terrorist attack on New York City, and the tremendous impact it had immediately on their lives. A budding gay romance between two of the characters is prominent, but secondary to the book's plot point about 9/11's aftermath and how New Yorkers pulled together. There is some strong language and drinking.

What's the story?

Three teens in New York City witness and later bond over the tragedy of 9/11. One high school girl, a gay high school boy, and a young gay college student who have crossed paths before the Twin Towers are destroyed on 9/11 find they have more in common as they try to reconcile the tragedy and its impact on their daily lives. Rushing to donate blood and aching to help and then finding group solace in attending memorial concerts, these teens find themselves growing up overnight with a little help from their friends. Peter and Jasper go on their first date days later, but their romance is over before it starts as Jasper tries to reconcile his despair over the incident.

Is it any good?


Levithan has crafted a beautiful story of hope. His three protagonists all take turns narrating their perspective in first-person, and through their alternating chapters, they bring 9/11 to life vividly -- both for those too young to clearly remember the day, and for those who witnessed it from outside of New York City. References to and quotes from songs the teens love and listen to, including "Love Is the Higher Law," help convey the emotions of the teens and create an immediate bridge for teen readers unfamiliar with that historical day.  It's hard to imagine a more evocative or compelling version of this event. Understanding what it was like to live through that day and its aftermath will help readers comprehend American life today.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about where they and other family members were on 9/11 and how it affected them. Why is it important to read books like this that describe historical events -- but also give readers a sense of what it was like to actually be there? Does this book change how you feel about 9/11 in any way?

  • Why was the music so important in this story? Do readers agree with Jasper that listening to certain songs on 9/11 would "ruin" them forever, or with Peter, who thinks it makes the songs even more memorable?

Book details

Author:David Levithan
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date:August 25, 2009
Number of pages:176
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

This review of Love Is the Higher Law was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old September 3, 2012

The Truth

This book really gives children and adults a good understanding about being alert and always caring about other peoples families because suppose someone's mom or dad was in 9/11 when it happened you should be grateful that, that wasn't you!! this book is really good thanks David Levithan
Adult Written bytobier February 7, 2016

Heavy book

I cried. Your teenage kids probably will too, but in a good way.
What other families should know
Great messages


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