Cover Image: Answers in the Pages

Answers in the Pages

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

An awesome fictionalization of the challenging of LGBTQ+ books that's going on in schools and libraries (and even bookstores) all over the country. The author's note about the names in the books really cinched this as a five-star read for me, but it was already a great, topical book.
Was this review helpful?
This was a fascinating book, and very timely; it revolves around a novel assigned by a 5th grade teacher and objected to by a mother, because the main characters might, maybe, possibly, be gay - or they may be very good friends who love each other platonically. The assigned novel never makes that distinction clear, nor is it in any way relevant to the plot of the novel. But based on one paragraph, on the last page, one mother submits the novel for review, and sets off a firestorm in her neighborhood.

There are three groups of characters in this novel: Donovan and his 5th grade classmates, Gideon and Roberto, a pair of 5th graders in another class, and Rick and Oliver, the main characters in The Adventurers, the novel assigned in Donovan's class. These three plot lines alternate throughout the book, in a way that is slightly confusing at first, but the purpose of which becomes apparent at the end of the novel. Along the way, various 5th grade students, and their parents, discuss why, if at all, The Adventurers should be read as an assigned novel, what they already know about various LGBTQ+ members of their community, including those in their own class. 

One of those students, Curtis, announces at a school board meeting that he is gay, and notes "I want to tell everyone here that I am gay. I think it's important you know that. A lot of the people here have been talking like there aren't any gay kids in Mr. Howe's class. They say that kids like me aren't ready to read about Rick and Oliver. But they have that wrong... Being ready is our choice, not yours... I think that if you want to know what kids really need, you should talk to us." This is a key point in the book, as well as a key comment on the social issues surrounding book banning: so many adult people decide what is best for kids, and they never ask kids what they want, never mind what might be best for them.

For anyone interested in the book banning debate, anyone who wants to see a variety of viewpoints from children about both book banning and the self-awareness that comes as children and tweens begin to understand themselves, this book is a must-read. For those who think that book banning is necessary to preserve the "innocence" of children, reading this book is vital. Recommended for ages 10 and up, based on reading level.
Was this review helpful?
I appreciate David Levithan's foray into middle grade. The adventure novel sections were really not appealing to me though showed why the kids liked it. The secondary story line really takes a long time to be revealed as to why it's relevant. It's a solid entry, though the message is a little too strong. It reads as a book written to the message as opposed to a book written with a message that comes through.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to netgalley for providing an e-galley for review. Answers in the Pages is a book about book challenges but done in a smart and caring way. A parent only reads the end of the book, neglecting the whole story and draws a conclusion based on one paragraph. Their are 2 boys and they have awesome adventures and the parent thinks these boys are gay. It is very ambiguous, and that's not the important part of the story. If they are or they aren't, the book should not be banned and the community should be accepting of either outcomes. There is a concurrent story that is also being told while the reader gets the story of the challenged book and what is going on in that community. This importance of this story is not immediately clear until the end, but when it is, it is bittersweet and heartfelt. This is such an important and timely book and needs to be read everywhere.
Was this review helpful?
David Levithan is a rock star. You can always count on him for clever, timely, engrossing, important, funny and entertaining books. Answers in the Pages is brilliant (“it shouldn’t matter” is bold and beyond brilliant). This book should be read, shared and discussed by everyone—not just kids.
Was this review helpful?
This middle grade novel intertwines three separate narratives. Donovan is a 5th grade student whose teacher assigns the class to read a book called The Adventurers. His mom picks it up, reads a pretty innocuous sentence at the end of the book and decides the characters in the book are gay and the book is inappropriate, and begins a campaign to have the book taken out of the classroom. Interspersed with this are randomness mmm chapters of this fictional book The Adventurers. And finally, there is a separate narrative about two fifth graders named Gideon and Roberto who begin to realize that they have feelings for each other, and it takes a while before you learn how their story ties in.

As you can imagine, that’s a lot going on for a short book! At the start, it’s a little confusing keeping track of which story you’re in, but once it gets going, that’s not a problem anymore. And there are just many wonderful lines and messages in this book - about the pointlessness of censorship, the open-mindedness and hopefulness of kids, and of course a warm and positive portrayal of LGBT+ characters of all ages. I also thought it was interesting that Donovan’s mom isn’t portrayed as a villain, but as a misguided woman who is acting out of fear but also love. This is the kind of book that should be read by the very people who would probably want to ban this book as well! But also a lovely book for middle grade readers and their parents and teachers.
Was this review helpful?
This is a fantastic Middle School read about book banning which is so relevant in libraries now a days. It is timely, thought provoking and allows for many differing views
Was this review helpful?
I love the way this book puts interpretation and understanding at the forefront as the issue in today's book banning efforts. The teacher has a very key speech towards the end of the book that I think should be used at every book challenge and board meeting. It's the perfect clapback to the book banning efforts happening now.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! A marvelous, timely middle-grade novel about book banning in public school. Eerily similar to recent headlines, although handled with tact and grace. The central dilemma is an adventure novel taught to 5th graders. A mom reads the last sentence of the book which has a male kid expressing "love" for another male kid. She interprets the characters as gay and leads the town into a frenzy over what is "appropriate" to be taught to children.
Was this review helpful?
I read this book in one very enjoyable sitting. As a librarian in a county that has been plagued by book challenges, I found this to be a realistic take on how students view the material and how the parents react. Accurate, factual, and all too timely look at book banning by one of my all-time favorite authors who is uniquely familiar with the topic.
Was this review helpful?
What a wonderful novel! At one point, about three-quarters through, I found myself actually whimpering aloud because it was so lovely, and I had to put the book down and recover a little bit from its emotional beauty before I could pick it back up and finish. (Yes, I'm an overly dramatic reader.)

I promptly fired off an email to my colleague who teaches sixth-grade English, because I think this would be such an important and worthwhile novel to read with students. And I double-checked to make sure that my school library had a copy as well.

By this point, we're all used to alternating POV chapters (and in fact I'm rather tired of this device), but even so I at first found the structure of the novel a bit confusing and had to go back to the beginning at one point to make sure I had the characters all clear in my head. But it all comes together so wonderfully and unexpectedly at the end that I regretted every mild thought I'd had along the way that the structure could have been simpler without sacrificing anything important. I was wrong, and David Levithan was absolutely right.

<i>“'You can’t have adventures without freedom,’ Melody pointed out. ‘And you can’t have freedom if you’re not willing to defend it from the people who want to take it away’” (Ch. 5)</i>

My thanks to NetGalley for providing me a copy of the novel in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
There are many reasons, Answers in the Pages by David Levithan, is a book to read.  The themes of the book: be courageous, stand up for what is right, and accept differences, are all powerful.   The main character of Donovan is an interesting character as he tries to balance what he knows his mother thinks, with what he thinks and how to move forward.  

The book is timely as there are many people who want and are working toward banning books. One of the central themes of the story is whether a book called ‘The Adventurers’ should be banned.  As the book continues the three distinct storylines begin to move together. 

There are three storylines that weave around each other. One storyline is about Donovan and the book he left on the counter that has his mother up in arms.  Another storyline revolves around the adventures of three students chasing down an evil character before he can do more damage.  The last storyline revolves around two friends and how they found their lives changed because of the other.  

This is a fantastic Middle School read.  It is timely, thought provoking and allows for many differing views.  Answers in the Pages by David Levithan is a book to read!
Was this review helpful?
A bold timely novel is right! What a great book. I love the connection of the 3 stories at the end and the discourse. I also love how Donovan and his mom treated each other even though they did not agree.
Was this review helpful?
As an adult, in this year, I needed to read this story. I'm not sure if kids will feel the same way?  I liked the suspense of figuring out who Roberto and Gideon were in the grand scheme of the story. I like how they intertwined them, but I'm not going to lie, I was mixing up which character was in which story. And I wasn't interested in the book they were reading, I wish it would have been mentioned less.
Was this review helpful?
I appreciate the simplicity of this book. The plot is easy to follow as is the messaging. It's short and sparse and normally I'd offer that as criticism but in this case it works in the book's favor. It's unadorned and gives us space to apply our own thoughts and context to the events, to consider our own baggage and relate to the characters. In a world where book banning is a hot topic, this brief foray into the conversation is worth a look.
Was this review helpful?
Three stories in one: the past, the present, a novel.  Although it was easy to keep each story straight, there was a bit of mystery how one story was going to connect or relate to the other two.
Was this review helpful?
As a librarian and a queer person, this book stirred up a lot of feels. At first I was wondering how this complex issue would play out in a middle grades novel, and I'm happy to say that it absolutely excels! It does a fantastic job of getting into all the facets surrounding a book challenge with viewpoints from students, the teacher, administration, parents, community members, and the author. All of this is told in a riveting story line from Donovan's point of view, the boy whose mother starts the book challenge. As someone who can relate a lot to Donovan's situation, I thought the story was handled with care and love, while giving Donovan the chance to stand up for himself and the book that he and his class loves. The two other stories are cleverly woven with Donovan's - first are the chapters from the book that's being challenged, which show insight into the relationship between Oliver and Rick, the book's protagonists; second is the young love story between Roberto and Gideon. The way the stories come together at the end made me so happy! I think this book would be an excellent addition to any collection and it's a great entry point to discussing book challenges.
Was this review helpful?
This book brilliantly illustrates issues that are currently facing students in the U.S. The way that all of the characters are portrayed was perfect and I think that the thoughts and ideas presented in this book will help a lot of young people sort through their feelings about acceptance, love, standing up for yourself in the face of injustice. I recommend this book to any middle grade parent or student that is seeking a student perspective on LGBT issues in libraries and schools.
Was this review helpful?
A timely narrative, this book reminds us that book challenges are usually done as a form of control by parents, most of whom don’t read the book, and takes advantage of the line of communication between teachers and parents when their goals for children are the same: to teach empathy and communication.
Was this review helpful?
This is (sadly) a timely story about book-banning in this country, and the people who are most hurt by it—the very readers parents purport to protect. While Levithan's story offers a hopeful, common-sense-prevails ending, extremists in this country have set up websites specifically challenging masses of books with cookie-cutter letters that require little more than choosing a title and posting it to your school, town, etc., never mind actually reading the book. Needless to say, those challenges are not the result of a caring parent's worry about a vulnerable child—and would hardly make for a fun middle-grade novel.

Here, Levithan brings depth to the story, with a compelling plot, multiple points of view, and a balanced argument that goes out of its way to present all points of view. He stresses that even the villains here started from a place of caring, before they went off on their misguided way. In Levithan's deft prose, Mr. Howe, the teacher who assigned the book in question, offers an elegant, impassioned argument to the school board, parents, and community at large, 

"There is nothing inappropriate about being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or nonbinary or questioning or any other identity within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. There is nothing sinful about it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing about being queer that deserves censorship rather than expression. Nothing. This should not be a matter of debate, because a person's humanity should never be a matter of debate. Instead, it is a matter of the highest principle we can aspire, which is equality.

I know that if you've spent your lives being told an identity is wrong, sinful, or inappropriate, it's hard to wrap your mind around the fact that everything you've been told is bigotry."

Write that down, everyone, and remember it.
Was this review helpful?