Saturday, December 13, 2008
The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
"Here's what I know about the realm of possibility-/it is always expanding, it is never what you think/it is. Everything around us was once deemed/impossible. From the airplane overhead to/the phones in our pocket to the choir girl/putting her arm around the metal head./As har as it is for us to see sometimes, we all exist/within the realm of possibility. Most of the limits/are of our own world's devising. And yet/every day we each do so many things/that were once impossible to us."
There seems to be a recent outbreak of YA fiction novels being written entirely in poetry, because like the Sones book I reviewed not too long ago, there isn't any prose to be found here, either. Levithan has created twenty different complex and believable high school students with interconnected story lines who each offer us up just one poem to summarize their situation. What I think was the most interesting about the way that the book was put together was the success with which Levithan carefully crafted the poems so that the style of each would match the fictional author's voice and personality. It's easy enough to create different characters, sure, but to each give them a different style of writing without any overlaps is another story all together. It goes without saying that in some of these poems work better than others.
My favorite of all the poems involved one of the squares (involved in Honor Club, Quiz Bowl, etc.) buying marijuana for her mother who was undergoing chemotherapy and then watching her mother laugh for the first time in ages and turn the music up so that she could get out of bed to dance. The poem continues on to the next day where the dealer offers her more pot and she declines saying she can't afford it and he insists she take it anyway, without saying too much letting her know that he knows it isn't for her and what it's for, thus challenging her assumptions about him through his strange show of kindness. One of the more amusing poems was written about how someone felt he was losing his girlfriend to Holden Caulfield, because after reading The Catcher in The Rye about a thousand times she decided that everyone, including him, was a phony that could not be trusted. I think at some point or other every book nerd falls hard for the ideology of one of their favorite authors or fictional characters but I don't know anyone that goes around lecturing others about it. (I'm partial to Atwood girl, myself.)
I wasn't wild over The Realm of Possibility but I think it did a great job of exploring a very diverse group of students--from the choir girl to the goth to the gay couple to the anorexic girl to the school jock that seems to have it all together to the angry goth chick writing things like "YOU ARE IMPLICATED" and "YOU ARE FOOLISH IN YOUR UNHAPPINESS" over lockers and desks throughout the school.
The most frustrating thing about the book is that it isn't organized very well and it's often hard to tell who is speaking due to the structure Levithan employs. It is divided into five different sections and each section has a page that has the names of the characters who are in that section in the order that they appear, but their names are not anywhere to be found on the poems themselves, so I had to keep flipping backwards to figure out what was going on.