Cover Image: Answers in the Pages

Answers in the Pages

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Member Reviews

It took me a minute to figure out the three separate story lines but they blended together beautifully. This is an important book in our current times and "political" climate. This was a great middle grade read.
I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this story for my unbiased opinion.

I happened to love this little story. I think the reason I only gave it 4 stars is because I would have loved to read a longer book. Not so much the book that the kids were reading in class but more of the kids in the class. I think the author did a great job of not pushing the views down the readers throat. Some kids knew they were gay, or otherwise queer, some of the kids really didn't know, and that sounds so true to life.

I did write some notes down while reading this book: ( I was trying to find my notes thinking I wrote them down on paper but they were actually in my kindle, lol)

Loc 762 - Ok the mom is weird and a bitch. I know there are some people who read the end first but the mom here would read the first part of the book and then read the ending to see if she approved of the book for her 5th grade son to read. So she did this with the book the teacher assigned to the class and pitched a fit because her son might "turn gay" if he read it.

Loc 1115 - These are kids in 5th grade talking about Valentines Day and giving presents like chocolates, flowers, and dinner, in a restaurant, or all three? Wow, I never thought about stuff like that in 5th grade. We were still doing the giving stupid little valentines day cards for everyone. I know it was many years ago and things probably have changed but wow!

This book was a cute little story and I think it would be fun for all to read.
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I LOVED this book. The interconnected storylines, the lgbtqia+ positivity, the sweet main character & his friends, the anti-censorship message, the turtles! I cannot *wait* to add this to our school library and start recommending it to kids — it is middle grade perfection!
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I can't recommend this book enough. I've read two other books by this author and this has to be my favorite so far, although I was a fan before this book. The book is timely, even as debate rages in schools and communities over banning books. What I love is how sensitively the author approaches the issues, and that he doesn't just make out those who want to ban certain books from the curriculum as pure evil. In fact, Donavan's mom, who started the whole process of banning the adventure book from their classroom, was painted as someone who truly loved him with all her heart. It was clear to me that the only way to "win" in this battle is for people on both sides to talk to each other. Okay, there were some people on the side of banning the books who are not well-intentioned, but I liked the way the issue was approached at this school and in this book. There were so many good points made in this book that I would like everyone to read this book. But ultimately, what I loved about this book were Roberto and Gideon themselves as they form first a friendship, and then first love. I also loved hearing the perspectives of many of the characters in the book. This book and so many books for lgbtqa+ teens and middle school students need to be in schools everywhere. 

As an aside, I loved the turtles in this book! It made me think of my own Sheldon, may he rest in peace. We lost him at the ripe old age of 50+.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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This beautiful middle grade book gets all the stars! Levithan expertly weaves together three stories about friendship, bravery, adventure and love, through the lens of a classroom book challenge. The characters are endearing and plot moves quickly. This book is especially important in light of the recent book challenges and bans happening across the country.
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Living in our current world is tough for a middle grader. With parents and politicians banning books with "inappropriate" themes and threatening to close libraries, firing teachers, and making marginalized populations feeling like their lives don't matter, now, more than ever, we have to promote literature that has themes of love, kindness, friendship, standing up for your beliefs, and a reflection of all children. David Levithan's book, Answers in the Pages, is a timely exploration of these themes. I highly recommend it!
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Answers in the Pages by David Levithan

A story within a story. All of Levithan’s books feel like this; they’re eggs or nuts, where something more is contained than what we’re first presented with. This one is like an egg with a double yolk, and it’s so elegantly put together that I kept stopping and thinking about the care involved in telling a story this way. I’ve enjoyed Levithan’s work, and was excited to see what he’d write for a middle grade audience, and I think this is better than any of his other works.

Censorship is a tough thing to write a novel about – it’s so easy to make it flat and polemic at the same time – and I admire the way Levithan meets it head on in this remarkable book, without letting the concept engulf the story. The characters are like all Levithan’s characters: clear-voiced, confident (even the ‘shy’ ones), and precocious in their vocabularies and ideas.

Here’s the thing: I don’t find Levithan’s YA characters approachable. This is partly, of course, because I’m not the target audience. As a teenager I didn’t read fiction to feel inadequate or to worry that I was doing whatever age I was wrong, and yet I ran into it constantly and left a lot of never to be reread books in my wake. I suspect I’d have been intimidated by Levithan’s hyper-articulate and emotionally aware teens. But I find the middle school characters in this novel both relatable and appealing, and at no point did I feel like I was reading about adults thinly frosted with adolescence.

These kids are still kids. They’re not small 30 year olds and that stays consistent as the story moves between the different voices: there’s a first person narrator telling part of the tale, there’s the story-inside-the-story, and there’s the third-person story. It’s important that middle grade readers are given careful and clever writing like this; it matters so much to teach awareness of structure and syntax.

In spite of my lukewarm feelings about the characters in Levithan’s novels for a YA audience – I’d be happy to know them all, they’d be great to have as students in a writing workshop or as occasional customers at my imaginary bookstore, but I wouldn’t want to be trapped in a train car in a snowstorm over a weekend with them – but I genuinely liked these kids. I also liked the approach to censorship and book banning where we get the story in question as we get the people affected by the parents’ – to me – astonishingly nonsense reaction.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s in San Francisco and the north bay. This kind of thing didn’t happen there. There was a book called Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden – to whom Levithan dedicates this novel – that our school library had, along with Happy Endings Are All Alike by Sandra Scoppetone and a couple of others that had gay or lesbian characters. Nobody ever said “this book is dangerous” and other than being told I was too young to read DH Lawrence when I was 10, I don’t recall ever being denied a book because of content.

So stories like the ones in the news take me by surprise. That there are parents who are so insecure in the teachings of their church or of the soundness of their own values that they think reading a novel can undo them is baffling to me. The idea that learning homosexuality exists will make your kid gay is preposterous. And yet, that’s the US today. Even in progressive areas there are pockets of idiots who want to remove books from libraries.

What’s scary is that there are people on the left doing this, too. And it makes it easier to ban Rainbow Rowell if we are also banning Twain or Hemingway. Most kids won’t think about the reason for a ban, particularly if they don’t have access to the books; they’ll take away this: if you read something and think it’s bad you can make sure nobody else can read it.

Are there bad books? Absolutely. Are there bigoted books? Again, yes. But banning them or burning them isn’t the solution. That is what a reader will hopefully take away from this book, along with the ability to articulate how they feel about censorship and an awareness of how much nonsense adults perpetrate in the name of protecting them from ideas.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book in the moment was the way Levithan spoofs the milky-tea quality of the writing in US middle grade fiction – his adventure story is the kind of mass-market thing that makes me angry, because it’s formulaic and chunters along like one of those little trains at zoos, and we need to expect more from writers than dunt-da-dunting sentences and excessive adverbs whenever anyone speaks. It’s brilliant here, though, and I think the reader will see the contrast between the rest of the story and the story that the parents want to ban.

I highly recommend it and look forward to more of Levithan’s writing for a middle-grade audience.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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It all started with a book left on a counter by Donovan where his mother was able to read one paragraph out of context. She makes the decision that the book is not appropriate for him to read and brings it to the school board. Will Donovan continue to read the book and decide for himself if it is worth the read and why it was assigned? Elsewhere Gideon is intrigued by the new student, Roberto, causing him to learn more about himself. Lastly, in the banned books pages, the Adventurers tackle a difficult mission. In this new book by David Levithan, three perspectives are intertwined encouraging you to question where you might stand in a similar situation.
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This book is a creative and approachable novel that is timely and well-written. I loved the 3 storylines and how they blended together. A great take on what is currently going on in our country.
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"At that moment Rick knew just how deeply he loved Oliver, and Oliver knew just how deeply he loved Rick..." One's interpretation of a single statement can make all the difference. The statement itself might be less noticeable depending on where it is seen or heard and the surrounding context. When the The Adventurers, a book being read by Donovan's fifth grade class, is picked up at home by his mother, she decides it is inappropriate for him to read. It doesn't take her long to get on the phone with Donovan's friends' moms either and schedule a meeting with the school. Donovan only read the first few pages in class but can't see what his mom would think is wrong about a book where kids go on adventures. Before he returns to class without his copy of The Adventurers (because his mom hasn't returned it), Donovan stops by the school library to get a copy so he can see what's "so bad." Because his mom drew so much attention to the book, several classmates have finished reading and the kids have honest, open discussions with each other and their teacher Mr. Howe who is openly gay. Told in short, alternating chapters, Donovan's story unfolds; alongside Gideon's, another elementary school-aged boy; and Rick and Oliver's, the characters from the book being challenged. Readers will see what happens when a book's content is challenged - how it impacts the teacher, the students, and families who may not agree with each other.

THOUGHTS: Timely and full of heart, Answers in the Pages is a book that should be in every upper elementary and middle school library!
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While book banning, discrimination and parental fears are not new, this book couldn't be more relevant than right now as school boards, school libraries, and teachers are dealing with people terrified that their children might learn to accept others.

Gideon's openly gay and married fifth-grade teacher Mr. Howe has assigned the class the book "The Adventurers," but when Gideon leaves it lying around while he plays video games his mother picks it up, flips to the end, and sees something she interprets as potentially homoerotic. This begins the struggle as she organizes more mothers to get this and other books pulled from the school library. Meanwhile, Gideon and his friends are mostly confused and then angry about the whole thing, especially after one of his classmates tells them he is gay.

Gideon himself is going through some stuff as he realized he's attracted to his new classmate, Roberto. 

The book builds slowly to the public challenge to the book, which includes angry parents, the school officials, the students, and the author of the book whom Gideon has invited. 

It's both cheering and depressing that Levithan wrote an incredible book about book banning that will almost certainly be banned from many schools on publication. Personally, I think all of his work should be required reading; he brings such empathy, humor and feeling to his characters.

If there is an unbelievable thing in the book, it's that everyone involved is so polite. There is no screaming, no harassment of teachers at home and online (at least that the students know about), no threats. In that, it is sadly unrealistic.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the e-ARC of this title.

This title does a great job demonstrating how so many of the parents' requests to ban books are knee jerk reactions to what they think their children are experiencing (and not experiencing) in their daily lives.
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This book! O. M. G. The characters are so lovely, the subject is so important, I cannot recommend this book enough! I will be purchasing this for my middle grade nephew!
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Thoroughly enjoyed this middle grade book. I’m a big fan of David Levithan and knew it would be good. Of course, it did not disappoint. The summary provides the best glimpse into what the story is all about so I will only comment on how well it was executed. I’ll admit, it took me a while to figure out that there were two MC’s initially but it was great seeing the story come together and fully flesh out. Loved the thoughts of Gideon and seeing how Donovan felt about being at the center of the challenge. It was such a great read that I was sad it was over so soon. Definitely recommend others check it out.
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First, as always, thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for a fair and honest review!

Okay, so this was an absolutely AMAZING middle grade novel about queerness and book banning and realities and growing up and family, chosen or otherwise, and friends! You can probably already tell that I have a lot of enthusiasm for this one. Levithan shouts out Nancy Garden, specifically "Annie on My Mind"; that was the first queer book I'd ever read, I was a preteen, and it was so difficult to get my hands on. None of the libraries around me carried it because of its "inappropriate content", so I found "Answers in the Pages" oddly, or perhaps not oddly at all, healing. I'm excited for kids who read this book, I'm excited for kids who can find books that help them see themselves, and I'm excited it's widely available unlike the books as a queer kid in the 90s and 00s small town Louisiana.

While I definitely see how the overlapping stories (Donovan, Gideon and Roberto, "The Adventurers") could be too much, I actually really enjoyed it. There's something to be said about the books that influence us, the people who shape us in our childhoods, and what we do with all these lessons. Seeing it all wound together like an alphabetic tapestry was beautiful, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Great middle grade, yes, but also just great overall!

5/5
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I think that David Levithan is one of the best YA writers out there. I love his books and co-authored books and his approach to being young and growing up and all that. Answers in the Pages was a good read. It was on point (challenging a book because of the supposed content in a school district, one of the main reasons that I'm leaving my current school district, to be honest) and the results were welcome (in the book). I like the timeliness and the characters and the way that the book was told from 3 different perspectives. And the message resonates with me as it should with everyone... Love is love. Why people get so worked up over this topic is beyond me. Who cares who loves whom? Who cares what gender people identify as if any? How does any of this affect a person who is not dealing with it (I get that relatives and such of this hypothetical person have a new landscape to ford, but okay, do it together with understanding and love in your heart for crying out loud)? Levithan is able to tackle these issues with grace and understanding and he totally puts a real face to the issues that our country is facing right now and I'm here for it. The lack of a star is totally due to the Adventurers story. I get that it is the third perspective of the book, but it is a little too much for me (the action is over the top and while written for a 5th grader? it's hard to buy into that), but that's okay... it's not really the meat of the story for me, the outcome and challenge and the need to understand are far more meaningful to me than the story of the book being challenged (even though, you know, the whole book is based on the challenge of that book, you know?). Anywho, this is a must-read, in my mind, especially for teachers and people who are sickened at the direction our country, and in some cases schools, are heading. Let's put a stop to this nonsense, together!
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Answers in the Pages has three concurrent tales that all show their connection towards the end. You have Donovan, reading a book about two boy adventurers that are trying to stop a dastardly Florida plot and accidentally inspiring his mom to start a book banning campaign. He says it’s because she always reads the end of the book first, and doesn’t want to consider full context. We also get into the story, as we get excerpts from The Adventurers about what leads to that last line about one boy loving another.

Meanwhile, two boys named Gideon and Roberto become closer to each other after a class assignment. They start to realize they have a lot in common, and spend time together. A shared love for turtles may bloom into something more. Yet life may get in the way of the turtles, and the bond that they have built. Miami may also be to blame, how it looms in the distance. (Can’t exactly argue about that since my city is weird and part of Florida so well-done on nailing that part.)

Donovan cannot believe that his mother would do such a thing, overreacting to a book, and leave him in the middle. She confiscates his copy, before he could get to the end, and starts petitioning the principal to remove the school. Their teacher Mr. Howe, who is openly gay, is accused of “indoctrinating” students and arrives to class visibly exhausted, but with a chipper face. When Donovan apologizes for getting Mr. Howe in trouble, his teacher says that it’s not his fault. He practically orders Donovan to not feel guilty about something that his parents did. Meanwhile the students decide to rebel, and rally around Donovan to message the author and explain what happened. His mother assumes that Donovan agrees with her that banning a book and getting a teacher in trouble is okay, as he strives to find a way to get things back to normal and read the book, to form his own opinion.

The story is very lighthearted, given the target audience is middle-grade readers. We do need a bit of lightheartedness considering that in real life, banned book challenges can lead to ruined careers, long-term trauma, and the breach of trust between parents and children. There also may be long-term ramifications with government legislation.

Note: This is an excerpt of my review on Medium
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This book deftly takes on the topic of challenged books- through different lenses. A 5th grader whose mother objects to his assigned reading; a new student who finds companionship; and others. Each finds ways to express themselves eloquently. The message is strong and supportive.
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I adore David Levithan and have thoroughly enjoyed his waltz into middle grade novels! He has this ability to deftly weave together stories in such a way that at first you’re scratching your head, and then it all clicks. 

Writing a book that is so relevant to the times, dealing with book banning, the ability to have discussions about gender and sexual identity at school, being open and honest. Levithan doesn’t tiptoe around the issues, he marches in ready to own the room. Or maybe he owns it before he walks in. Needless to say, I think he needs to get working on The Adventurers, because that’s the next middle grade book we need!!
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I absolutely loved this book and even shed a few happy tears. As an educator, my job is to teach children how to think for themselves. Not teach them what to believe or to believe in the same things I do, but to be able to make their decisions based on what they believe. This book encompasses that. Donovan and his 5th grade class have been assigned a book to read in class that suggests the main characters may be gay because they mention being deeply in love. A few parents take it to the school board in hopes to ban it from the curriculum. The three interwoven stories in this book just made it that more impactful and meaningful. 
Being someone who always read above grade level and more mature things for my age, the idea of banning books just breaks my heart. I think that while not every book is for everyone, there is a book for everyone and nobody should be excluded due to others’ opinions.
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