The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

“Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.”

basis, n.

There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.

If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it—you’re done. And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance, ready for whenever you want it back. Sometimes it’s even there when you thought you were searching for something else, like an escape route, or your lover’s face.

How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

Award: YALSA’s Alex Awards (2012)

Personal Thoughts:

I admit I’m not the best person to talk about relationships or love in general. I am no expert in that field and never will I be. I’m a fairly logical person and I am aware that one of the things where logic is not applicable is in this four letters word, LOVE. In my understanding love can never be quantify, rationalise, analyze nor even reasonalize. So I won’t discuss any personal relation of this book into mine but instead I’ll try to concentrate on how good this book is.

In The Lover’s Dictionary, David Levithan try to describe love or relationships in a realistic but different approach. Using a non-linear format, specifically dictionary entries that alphabetically arranged, the author weaved a poignant love story of two unnamed characters. Each word entry from A (aberrant) to Z (zenith) was defined not by actual word definitions but by stories or scenarios describing the narrator’s relationship, which gives meaning or significance to the word entry in its own way.

autonomy, n.
“I want my books to have their own shelves,” you said, and that’s how I knew it would be okay to live together.

In no particular order you will see how a close to real relationship developed and possibly ended. Piece by piece like a puzzle that you need to put together to see the whole picture, the narrator tell each bit of his/her relationship. Since it is not properly arranged, you can know how the story will end even before you reach the end of the book. But in my case, knowing the outcome before the book ends doesn’t necessary lessen my excitement to know more. I almost shattered when I finally reached the end of the book because I certainly want to glimpse more of the narrator’s relationship with his/her partner.

Most of the entries were poignant and painfully real that I can easily relate to them even I haven’t experience most of the events. It is so touching and heart breaking that I can’t help but feel the compassion and love between the lines.

love, n.
I’m not going to even try.

If I have to choose one word from a dictionary to describe this book that would be no other than….

ineffable, adj.
I am really incapable of expressing how lovely this book is. I know it’s good and I know I love it but I can’t managed to express my reasons. As if no matter what I write it is not good enough to justify the greatness of David Levithan‘s work for this one.

Maybe much of the brilliant of this book goes to the way it was written. It makes the book undeniably unique and unexpectedly powerful. Given that the story is narrated by unnamed character and in a non-linear format it is surprising how the scenes and lines can pull out so much emotions. The tugging words, poignant lines and heart breaking scenes exist in the most simplest and realistic way.

This book is a simple but real portrayal of realities of a relationship. It shows the highs and lows of love in its true form. It simply tells how loving someone changes your life in a marvelous and painful ways.

Overall, The Lover’s Dictionary is a quick, fast-paced and engaging book that highlight David Levithan‘s writing creativity. Through a unique style he weave a realistic and emotional story full of love and pain. I may not know what really love is but this book clearly shows that love can be painful, intense, messy, confusing, wonderful and real. Whether you believe in love or not, I think you’ll find a bit of yourself in one of the entries of The Lover’s Dictionary.


10 thoughts on “The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan”

  1. OMG!!!!
    This sounds amazing!!!
    I NEED to read his books!! This being one of them!!
    I’ve just read his writing on will grayson, will grayson along with John Green!!!
    I hope to get this one day!


    1. I’m trying to read most of his books too! David Levithan is really talented! This one exceeds my expectations from him. I have to get my hands to his other works soon. I’ve only read two of his books, this one & Will Grayson, Will Grayson & I’m loving him already ^__^. If you enjoy his part from WGWG, I think you’ll like this one too even though they were total opposite! He is so good in Lover’s Dictionary.


  2. “BASIS, n. – There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.” oh my exactly the same line i said before 2011 ended. i cant wait until you share this book to me heheh..


  3. I’m reminded of a line from “A Fault in our Stars”. It was the best definition of love I’d ever heard. This boy was going to lose his eyes to cancer (for the life of me, I can’t remeber his name), and his girlfriend broke up with him because she couldn’t take it anymore. Ranting, the boy said, “When you can’t anymore, you do it anyway. Because that’s what love is.”

    I think that’s why my husband and I have such a great relationship. We both will never give up on each other, no matter how hard life gets.

    Anyway, I loved your review and I would really love to read this book.


    1. omg!!! The Fault in Our Stars!!! I love that book. I read that on its released date in one sitting and I love it! John Green is definitely one of my favorite authors. He is so great. I love all his books.

      About the boy, his name is Isaac, Augustus Waters bestfriend. He’s not one of the major character in the story but he is really a great addition. I enjoy reading his rants, most of them rings true like the one you mentioned above.

      I haven’t review The Fault in Our Stars and I think I need to re-read that one before I can gather all my thoughts about the book. I just don’t feel I can justify how lovely that book is. Definitely John Green’s best work to date.


  4. Hi Maricar, I love novels like these. Very daring, experimental, and just plain oozing with creative energies. I didn’t know about this book until now, thank you for sharing it. I’ve heard of David Levithan, though. I hope I get around to reading his books this year. 🙂


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