A Review: The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan

“I’m not good at relationships

I always manage to find the flaws

sometimes in others

but mostly my own.

I foretell the ending

then go and create the cause

save myself

and end up alone.”

Is this the next song to be released by an unknown indie band? No. It’s one of the stories crafted by David Levithan: a song written by teenage lesbian Diana, taking readers through the progression of her unrequited love for her fellow classmate Elizabeth. Welcome to the rollercoaster ride of emotions in The Realm of Possibility. Whether you sympathise with Diana’s seemingly inescapable trajectory of romantic endeavours, or her unique ability to bring about the exact problems which she worries will arise, I promise there is so much more relatable and gorgeous poetry for you to delve into in this book.

This poignant book stole my heart the first time I read it and it still does every time I re-read it (which is often). It follows the lives of 20 high schoolers, with each person expressing their thoughts through free verse or song lyrics in a form of poetry unique to Levithan. The beauty and intrigue of the book also become clear as you progress through the chapters and realise the intertwining of the characters’ lives. The book traverses the way high schoolers cope with the struggles of adolescence, examining their relationships to both themselves and others in class, in concerts, in parties, at part-time jobs and on road trips. This book is so important because it’s relatable: you can understand and remember the experiences, anxieties and joys detailed in the stories of their lives.

And don’t worry. This isn’t just another heteronormative, white, teenage angst YA book. Although it does have some angst and is a YA book. But it’s David Levithan: a gay Jewish author who delves into the lives of diverse characters to show the true range of teenage emotion. Among the 20 people, you’ll find a gay couple celebrating their anniversary, an academic achiever trying to find pot for her mum, a Korean daughter flirting with both acceptable and unacceptable boys and a religious chorister dating a goth — just to name a few.

So if you are like me, a first-year student looking back with nostalgia on what, upon reflection, was clearly the not-so-stressful times of high school, then this is the book for you. My obsession with this book runs deep — with my trusty highlighter and analytical English skills, I took to the pages, highlighting the words which seemed to take the thoughts right out of my head. I even have a map that outlines how and why the characters are connected to each other — it’s not hard to tell that I’m a bit of a book nerd, is it?

It’s a reminder of what it means to be a teenager, with all the great and the not-so-great thrown into the melting pot of youth. It’s got naivety, rebelliousness, humour and heart. It captures those moments you never want to forget: where time slows down and you feel that feeling in the pit of your gut that says ‘this is life’. No one says it better than Daniel, a senior who met his boyfriend Jed in junior year over a mutual love of M.C. Escher. Smoking a symbolic cigarette with his boyfriend for their one-year anniversary, he wonders aloud:

“Once time is lit, it will burn whether or not you’re breathing it in. Even after smoke becomes air, there is the memory of smoke. I am seeing as if by the light of a match, a glimpse of my life and having it feel right.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I thought I was in the eye of a stress storm in senior year. That being said, I do have a tendency to exaggerate and bring about more stress for myself. Daniel’s comments really hit home, because it reminded me that my final year was just that — my final year. It was my last chance to experience and revel in the joys of teenage freedom, particularly free board and free food.

If you’re struggling to acclimatise to the new ways of university life, or just want to reminisce on those high school days before the insane levels of university readings, I promise this book is worth the read. And even if you do have to fit it in with those readings, it’s a lovely and short at 210 pages. Trust me, this book will linger.