Answers in the Pages

In the engrossing middle-grade novel Answers in the Pages, fifth-grader Donovan takes a stand against his own mother when she leads a crusade to ban a book from the curriculum because of its assumed gay protagonists.

Donovan has barely even begun The Adventurers when his mother takes it off the counter and reads it. He thinks the book is fun, but his mother believes the protagonists are gay and is scandalized his teacher would assign it. Before long, their town becomes embroiled in a debate about LGBTQ+ content in school literature, and Donovan feels compelled to stand up in support of the book--and his queer classmates--amid ongoing pressure from his mother. Two additional narratives progress alongside the central storyline: one is the plot of The Adventurers and the other features two boys whose friendship becomes romantic. In short, punchy chapters, Levithan deftly intertwines the three plots using common themes of advocacy, power and identity.

David Levithan (The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S.) reflects Donovan's pursuit for justice in the action-adventure plot of The Adventurers, whose characters must stop an angry bad guy from unleashing evil. One of the characters remarks, "You can't have adventures without freedom.... And you can't have freedom if you're not willing to defend it from the people who want to take it away." Including this storyline is a clever metafictive nod that allows readers of Answers to form their own opinions in the debate about the challenged book: Are the characters gay, and does it matter? Levithan skillfully dovetails the three stories into a dramatic conclusion with a few delightful surprises. --Kieran Slattery, freelance reviewer, teacher, co-creator of Gender Inclusive Classrooms

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