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The Lover's Dictionary [Hardcover]

David Levithan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Feb 2011

How does one talk about love?

yearning, n./adj.

At the core of this desire is the belief that everything can be perfect.

We are all beginners when it comes to love, from those tentative first dates to learning how to live with, or without, someone. But how does one describe love? How does one chart its delights and pleasures, its depths and desolations? 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? David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary starts where we all once started - with the alphabet.

Constructing the story of a relationship as a dictionary, Levithan explores the intimacies and workings of love through his nameless narrator, to paint a moving portrait of love through everyday words. Cleverly using the confines of language to provide an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being part of a couple, Levithan gives us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

aberrant, adj.

‘I don’t normally do this kind of thing,’ you said.
‘Neither do I,’ I assured you.
And later it turned out we had both met people online before, and we had both slept with people on first dates before, and we had both found ourselves falling too fast before. But we comforted ourselves with what we really meant to say, which was: ‘I don't normally feel this good about what I'm doing.’
Measure the hope of that moment, that feeling.
Everything else will be measured against it.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (3 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007377975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007377978
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 374,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'[An] inspired idea… both [narrator and partner] come wonderfully alive, emerging as complex, multidimensional human beings, happy and unhappy, ebullient and angry, sweet and sour, and so – delightfully – forth… accomplished artfully and satisfyingly.' Michael Cart, Booklist (Starred Review)

About the Author

David Levithan is the author of many acclaimed young-adult novels, including Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, Love is the Higher Law, and (along with Rachel Cohn) the New York Times bestselling Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, which has been adapted into a popular movie. He is an editorial director at Scholastic in the US.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dictionary of Love 11 Aug 2011
I loved this book. And I disagree with the reviewer who said this wasn't a novel, because in it's own, very unique way, it was. You just had to know how to connect the dots, because the novel did not take place in chronological order, it took place in moments.

The Lover's Dictionary is a book of words. It goes in alphabetical order - obviously - and every word is used to describe or portray a moment of time in David Levithan's (or fictional character's) own love story. And I thought it was beautiful.

I think it is a book worth reading by all lovers, because I'm sure that each person in a relationship or in love is going to connect with at least one of those moments that Levithan portrays with his words, and mark it in the book to remember to read again later on.

It is a very cleverly executed book, and almost reminded me of the old goosebumps books where you had to skip from one page to another in order to get the whole story in order. Only this time, there was no skipping, because the magic of the book is to read it out of order, out of time constraints. Just moments.

Like the word "circuitous" said: "We do not divulge our histories chronologically. It's not like we can sit each other down and say, 'Tell me what happened,' and then rise from the conversation knowing everything. Most of the time, we don't even realize that we're dividing ourselves into clues. You'll say, 'That was before my dad left my mom,' and I'll say, 'Your dad left your mom?'" (p.55).

All in all, beautiful, and easy to read. I truly enjoyed it. And it's such a simple yet creative idea, but I doubt anyone could've pulled it off as well as David Levithan.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great idea, not so greatly executed 3 Feb 2013
By YeahYeahNoh TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I can see I'm at odds with quite a few reviewers of this book.
It takes as it's premise an A-Z of words, each word telling an aspect or snippet of a story of two people who get together via a dating site. We pick up little snippets of their story, told through small passages tied to words. It's a clever idea, and some of the passages are very good indeed, but it does mean the whole is rather disjointed, and the 'story' is a little unclear and sometimes lacking direction. It seemed a little rushed later on to me too.
The whole thing is very short, considering it's described as a novel - it took less than an hour cover to cover. Not that that's a problem of itself, but worth knowing.
I saw this originally on the 'valentine' display in a bookshop - personally I'm not sure it's such a great romantic gift!
What it does do well though, is make you smile, sometimes it's bittersweet, and sometimes funny.
If I could give half stars I'd make it 3.5, but I can't, and I couldn't stretch it to 4, it just wasn't as good as it should have been.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully Different... 10 July 2011
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER
How on earth could a dictionary of words tell a love story? Well the easiest answer I would have to that is to say `go and read David Levithan's new novel The Lover's Dictionary'. However as I should be hinting at why it's worth doing that a single short sentence isn't really a justifiable reason or incentive. Levithan uses a selection of words, in alphabetical order of course, and then below the word in a sentence, a paragraph or a page or two long piece creates a moment or incident in the relationship that builds an image of a time in that relationship.. Be it from `anthem' to `kerfuffle' or `leery' to `yearning' in each case clearly, simply and very effectively Levithan draws the reader into the most intimate and emotional moments of a couple's journey. That last bit makes it sounds saccharine and its not, I don't like saccharine novels, so it's probably best I give you an example, my favourite of which was `buffoonery' because it made me laugh, a lot. Though with alchoholism and adultery all lingering between the lines of this novel don't go thinking it's just a lovely story of love.

buffoonery, n.
You were drunk, and I made the mistake of mentioning Showgirls in a near-empty subway car. The pole had no idea what it was about to endure.

After closing the final page of `The Lover's Dictionary', which is a deceptively short novel to read, I actually felt like I had witnessed the development of a three year relationship from its very start to its very finish and with the highs and lows that come during that time period. Rather amazing then that this has happened without knowing either of the names of the two people who create that couple.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely recommend 9 Jun 2014
By Harriet
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a really unique book! I've never encountered any like it. There are a couple of words defined per letter of the alphabet, telling the story of an anonymous relationship. Easy to dip in and out of. Really sweet, makes you think and relate it to your own experiences which is sometimes bittersweet.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this 13 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought on KIndle and had to have the hard copy as well. Impossible to get through without a few tears and a lot of smiles
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4.0 out of 5 stars Moving, and very different! 3 Mar 2014
By Jo
The Lover's Dictionary is a story of a couple's relationship, from beginning to end. The story isn't told in chronological order of the events, but in alphabetical order of the words. With each word, there will be a memory or a feeling or an idea about their relationship sparked by the word, with each entry being from either one line to a page and a half. We know the nameless narrator is male, but we don't know the gender of the also nameless "you." The story works for "you" being of any gender.

I misunderstood the book, first of all. Half the time, it felt like the Dictionary was written after the break up. It felt like the narrator decided to flick through a dictionary, and write a memory/feeling/idea for each word that spoke to him. And with the memory/feeling/idea comes an emotion. The story isn't told chronologically, as I said, but each entry is written one after the other by the narrator - and the emotions jump depending on the word and what it sparks. So one moment is a happy remembrance, in another, there is such hurt and anger. This is how it feels. It's not so much a story, but as someone writing it all down, maybe as a way to deal with the break-up. At least that's how it felt.

Until the tense would break up, and became present. And for a moment, I get stuck. At first, I would think "Oooh, recent break up. Sometimes it's difficult to go to the past tense." But then you would get an entry written in present tense that is quite obviously in the middle of the relationship, and it would throw this whole idea out the water. The narrator isn't writing this after a break up. He is living his romance, it is a story, and each entry is a certain time within the relationship.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Short
Very quirky, wish it was longer! Some of the pages were just used for 2 or 3 sentences, completed it in a couple of minutes so good for a quick read.
Published 5 months ago by Manpreet Kaur
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful- short but full of emotion and life
This is one of those books which I know I will enjoy reading again and again. It is written as a dictionary, with each entry being a term: 'abstain', 'akin', 'aloof', 'arduous' and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by J.E.T
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection
I am in love with this book. It is filled with perfectly quotable snippets, accurate summations of affection and pain.

It is the story of a relationship. Read more
Published 7 months ago by G O'Donovan
5.0 out of 5 stars All you need to know.
Is that it's beautiful, it resonates with past and current love affairs. I highly recommend it! x x x x
Published 8 months ago by Aisha Al Baloushi
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and thought provoking.
I loved Mr Levithan's book and the style he used to convey a love story. Gave me much pause for thought. Highly recommended.
Published 8 months ago by Coogs
5.0 out of 5 stars The lover's dictionary
I loved this book so much! If you love books that are character driven you will love this. I adored how abstract and ambigious this book was compared to other books i've read. Read more
Published 9 months ago by anisah foolat
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite
This book is beautiful, poetic, hilarious, heart wrenching, touching. I carefully eked it out to make it last longer the first time through, and now I'll be reading it over and... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Kellan
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor value if I shelled out the cover price ..
The red cover 2.0. A library loan. Good idea but ingredients a bit thin, although probably mixed all right if one is tuned in. I am not a romantic writer. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Alexander Kreator
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
I've read most of David Levithan's books, and while I've enjoyed them, I've never been a crazy fan of him - but this book just blew me away. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Chelsea
5.0 out of 5 stars An original sad/funny book about relationships
Plot: This is an un-chronological story of a romantic relationship, (that makes it sound boring it really isn't). Read more
Published 16 months ago by Susan Rose
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