Love Is the Higher Law
First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . . The lives of three teens-Claire, Jasper, and Peter-are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents' frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he's okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire's, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him. Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other's in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by. David Levithan has written a novel of loss and grief, but also one of hope and redemption as his characters slowly learn to move forward in their lives, despite being changed forever. From the Hardcover edition.
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Make note of the narrator as you read this work of historical fiction. The author is using a non-linear form of text structure by changing the narrator of each chapter. The reader is exposed to parallel developments of the same historical event. The purpose of this may be to expose the reader to multiple points of view.
What is the setting of this narrative?
The author's use of the forbidden run-on sentence builds the frantic tone of the scene. Please watch the short video below to learn about the difference between mood and tone in literature. (This annotation contains a video)
The image below, belonging to National Geographic, is one example of what the narrator is describing. (This annotation contains an image)
What is most likely the author's purpose in including the details in this highlighted section?
"Nailed it" is a form of figurative language. Watching the video below will help you identify several types of figurative language throughout this narrative. (This annotation contains a video)
Masses and masses of people are seen escaping Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge on foot in the image below. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the narrator mean by, "I don't want to know anything, and I want to know it all"?
Manhattan as seen from Jersey City moments after the collapse. Each tower had 110 4-inch thick concrete slab floors. The vast majority of that concrete was pulverized into fine dust, swept blocks away from Ground Zero by gusty winds, and settled in layers sometimes 3 inches thick. It took months, if not years, to eliminate the debris. (This annotation contains an image)
Why doesn't the narrator wait to respond to Peter's email?
Almost immediately it was as though Americans were responding to the terrorism as one unit: a family whose bond was suddenly strengthened, declaring, "We are all in this together." Americans started buying flags hours after the attacks. Walmart sold 116,000 flags on that Tuesday and 250,000 on Wednesday, compared with 6,400 and 10,000 on the same days a year earlier. By Friday, September 14, Walmart was running out, but still sold 135,000.
The highlighted sentence is an example of which type of literary device?
The author points out an uncomfortable truth. Over a decade after 9/11, reports of anti-Muslim bigotry in America continue to make headlines. Online reporter Dean Obeidallah wrote, "(Anti-Muslim Americans) want to be convinced that the radicals are truly the exception and not 'true Islam.'" The fact that 19 of the 9/11 terrorists had been living on American soil for quite some time did not help the American muslim population.
Why does the narrator say that "it felt wrong" to watch TV programs such as Nickelodeon and VH1?
Many Americans describe the events of September 11th as one of great loss. Even those who had no personal connection to those who perished describe losing a sense of security and innocence.
What literary element is the author utilizing in the highlighted text?
One World Trade Center, also called the North Tower, was hit first (on the right). This may be the same gaping hole of which the narrator speaks. Many Americans have this moment seared in their memories as well. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the narrator implying when he calls the living room "a complete frat-house mess"?
"To take a stand" is an idiom meaning "to publicly express an opinion about something." Idioms are another form of figurative language where the meaning of the phrase cannot be predicted by knowing the meaning of its words.
Peter's words seem to be rambling with animation. The lack of formal paragraphs and the use of lengthy, sometimes run-on sentences, sets Peter's tone. Writing like this is known as stream of consciousness.
As Jasper watches more and more footage, how does he spend his time?
It's interesting that Jasper compares Peter to a stray. Jasper seems less invested in their relationship yet he continues to invite Peter over.
Why does Jasper lie to Peter about being a Boy Scout?
The author uses the rain and darkness to symbolize the deep emptiness that Jasper is experiencing, the one cast by the shadow of an incomprehensible tragedy.
Explain why the author would open this paragraph with such a brief statement.
The word gone is used twice by itself to convey the disbelief that Claire feels. This is a feeling that is shared by many New Yorkers and other Americans about the tragedy as well.
When the author describes the words as bleeding and the paper pulling against the Scotch tape, what form of figurative language is he using?
The author describes the rain in such detail so that the reader can visualize it. This literary device is called imagery. Please view the video below for a more detailed explanation of imagery. (This annotation contains a video)
Quiz #1 Love Is the Higher Law: Part 1 - Part 2
The author once again rotates narrators between the three main characters. The first chapter in Part Three is told from Peter's point of view.
When Peter states that he cares about people now in an existential way, what does he mean?
The fear that the author describes was not just confined to New York. Throughout the country people were afraid to fly or visit places that might be potential targets for terrorists attacks.
Why does Peter suddenly feel that Radio City Music Hall has become a way station for ghosts?
A study of nearly 400 office workers in the vicinity of the World Trade Center, including 65 survivors of the collapsed buildings, suggests little evidence of increased alcohol consumption or alcohol use disorders three years after 9/11. Researchers examined both self-reported alcohol consumption and problems prior to the attacks and found few cases of new alcohol disorders or alcohol relapse (Farfel M, DiGrande L, Brackbill R, et al).
Why does Peter resent his father's cereal bowl?
In the highlighted text, the author uses exaggeration to describe the narrator's emotional state. Please watch the video below for a detailed explanation of hyperbole. (This annotation contains a video)
The highlighted text is an example of which type of figurative language?
It seems apparent that the narrator is finally beginning to deal with the impact by talking to Claire based on his thoughts and statements. The author is using indirect characterization to give us insight into Peter's character. Please see the clip below for the different ways authors indirectly describe their characters. (This annotation contains a video)
The author uses Clair's character to point out the __________ of 9/11.
The author uses metaphorical language to express Claire's emotions to Jasper and the reader.
Why does the narrator feel right about breathing in the air after 9/11?
Eidetic memory is an ability to recall images, sounds or objects in memory with high precision for a few minutes without using mnemonics. It occurs in a small number of children and generally is not found in adults.
Why does the narrator want Jasper to remember the shirt that she was wearing?
Traumatic events can often cause friendships and relationships to evolve. These shared experiences will usually lead to a stronger bond or cause a chasm (a division).
Why does the author compare the crowd at the concert to a congregation?
The author uses the word ghosts as its own sentence for emphasis.
Quiz #2 Love Is the Higher Law: Part 3 - Part 4
Neither boy appears able to explain or even understand what happened between them in September. The author seems to be making a point about the impact of 9/11 on human connection and relationships.
Explain why the narrator describes the time as surreal. Support your response with textual examples from earlier in the story.
Isn't it funny how we can have these internal monologues that seem to last minutes, yet in reality only take up a matter of milliseconds?
This is the first indication that Jasper is keeping an on-going conversation with the recipient of his emails.
Euphemisms are used to make something sound better than it really is. For example, a certified pre-owned vehicle is a euphemism for used car. It may be more appropriate to call the narrator's words a sexual innuendo instead. Innuendos indirectly refer to something else. Both types of figurative language are rampant in our society.
What can the reader predict based on the highlighted text?
Countless memorials, commemorations, and tributes were born from September 11th. Among them, 9/11 Day has grown to be the nation’s largest annual day of charitable engagement. In 2013, more than 47 million people from throughout the U.S. and in 150 countries observed September 11 by performing good deeds that help others. The goal of 9/11 Day is to provide a positive way for all people to forever remember and pay tribute to the 9/11 victims, honor those that rose in service in response to the attacks, and remind people of the importance of working more closely together in peace to improve our world. In essence, the terrorists achieved the opposite of their intent.
Which of the following longterm effects has Claire experienced as a witness of 9/11?
This is probably a key difference between people who experienced 9/11 firsthand and those who watched it take place on television.
Compare the summaries of Groundhog Day and Sliding Doors (two movies released in the 1990's) to Jasper and Peter's relationship. Support your argument with textual evidence.
In the highlighted paragraph, it appears that the author uses his character to express his own political and social commentary.
Which form of figurative language is used in the highlighted phrase?
Quiz #3 Love Is the Higher Law: Part 5 - Author's Note