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Wide Awake    by David Levithan order for
Wide Awake
by David Levithan
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In David Levithan's near future Wide Awake, sixteen-year-old Jimmy and his partner Duncan are jubilant, along with many others, over the announcement that gay Abraham Stein and his running partner Alice Martinez have become President and Vice-President elect, respectfully. The election results are celebrated by supporters and belittled by opponents, causing a rift within the school-setting and community. But, the people have spoken through their votes.

After 9/11, politicians promoted a reign of fear - 'fear of mass destruction, of nonwhites and non-Christians, and of the unknown', to get what they wanted. Funds were squandered, pushing the nation further and further into debt, resulting in the Greater Depression, with foreign countries demanding debt repayment, and an ever higher cost of living. The War to End All Wars was launched by pandering to fears and 'singling out extremists everywhere'. The Decents and the Denial Education program peaked, along with Opus Dei Trials.

Now, decades later, everything is different, after many asked What Would Jesus Do? The answers were: 'Jesus would welcome everyone to His table. He would love them, and He would find peace'. The Jesus Revolutionaries were beginning to be heard. The Kindness Consortium established its Charity Is the New Shopping movement. But the election is not accepted gracefully by opponents, the Kansas governor leading the way in demanding a re-tally of that state's votes. Jimmy and Duncan are among the millions who head for Kansas at the call of Abraham Stein. En route with a busload of Stein supporters, Duncan and Jimmy, Keisha, and Mira explore their relationships, politics, and country, discovering that the journey is in the spotlight, more than the destination.

Though Wide Awake loses momentum in places, overall David Levithan has created a masterly plot, weaving together political manipulation, religious beliefs, ethics, and ethnicity, in an insightful gay-themed book for older teens. Levithan's spoken words in elected politician's speeches are particularly eloquent, as when President-elect Stein says, 'Whenever a truth is challenged, the value of all truths is challenged ... They are those who create doubt, instill fear, and subvert our democratic process ... Let us stay together to celebrate the glory of life, liberty, and equality'.

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