Donovan didn’t mean to leave the book on the kitchen table. Gideon hadn’t planned to ask the new boy, Roberto, to be his partner for their school project. And Rick didn’t know that the courage Oliver displayed on their latest adventure would make him realize “just how deeply he loved Oliver.” In acclaimed author David Levithan’s Answers in the Pages, these boys’ stories—separate but inextricably connected—intertwine to explore the impact of a book challenge in a small community.
When Mr. Howe passes out copies of a book called The Adventurers to Donovan’s fifth grade language arts class, Donovan accepts one without much thought and leaves it on the kitchen counter after reading the first chapter. It’s only when his mom asks him about the book and then goes to see the principal the next day that Donovan begins to realize something might be amiss. The situation spirals quickly as Donovan’s mom begins a campaign to remove the book from the curriculum because of its supposedly inappropriate themes.
Answers in the Pages unfolds in three skillfully balanced threads: There’s Donovan’s first-person narration, as well as amusing chapter-length excerpts from the fictional Adventurers novel, which follows the exploits of Rick and Oliver as they make daring escapes, track down evildoers and save the day. Finally, third-person chapters introduce Gideon and Roberto, two boys who don’t quite know where they fit in among their peers until they find each other. Each thread would be compelling on its own, but Levithan pulls them together in the book’s conclusion to create an ending even more moving than the sum of its individual parts.
As long as books have been written and published, efforts have been made to restrict the ability of readers—particularly young readers—to access them. With nuance and grace, Answers in the Pages explores the dramatic impact that such restrictions can have on the readers who need those books the most. Notably, the novel refuses to villainize Donovan’s mom, instead depicting her actions as the result of a misplaced sense of care. “I know you’re on my side,” Donovan tells his mom. “Just not this one time. This one time you thought you were on my side, but you got it wrong.”
Answers in the Pages is an uplifting portrait of the strength it takes to fight for your story. It’s an important book with an essential perspective on a vital, timeless question.