Reading the synopsis of Wide Awake, I found it difficult to see how David Levithan could pack religion, politics and sexuality into a book that's just over 200 pages long and make it meaningful. It's a minefield of hot topics that could have been awkward, preachy or uncomfortably controversial.
But in true David Levithan style, he takes a story and completely ensnared me in the life of Duncan, his boyfriend Jimmy, his friends and a cast of characters caught up in the election of the first gay Jewish president of the United States. Jimmy's world is similar to ours now, but global recession, war and terrorism have greatly changed the political and religious outlook of America and the rest of the world.
Duncan is a sweet, rather naive boy who seems to believe that what is right will always win - and it's an endearing quality rather than a frustrating one, as the story of his journey in realising that the world can be a frightening and pretty unfriendly place when you are different. In his home town, with his family and friends, his religion, sexuality and political beliefs are fairly widely accepted, with a few exceptions among his peers and with one particularly nasty teacher.
Jimmy is rather more dark and negative, but with Duncan as his partner they balance each other perfectly. There's a fantastic supporting cast of teen and adult characters that make for a memorable group of people who are simply standing up for what they believe in, without any doubts that their cause will fail.
I love that David Levithan took a world that could have been dark and disturbing and made it into an exciting, interesting take on what change could really mean. Although there are still divisions between religious and political beliefs, there are also groups that have changed how they interact with each other to make a more varied, joined country. As an imagining, this world felt like a real possibility.
I enjoyed Wide Awake far more than I thought I would given the synopsis, and I loved returning to David Levithan's imagination.
Read more of my reviews at The Aussie Zombie