This book, written all in poetry, is made up of insights into the lives of twenty students from the same high school. Each narrator reflects on some aspect of their life– a relationship, an insecurity, an event or habit. The stories sometimes interlock clearly, and sometimes mostly stand on their own. One chapter was about a girl feeling strangely compelled to write cryptic messages on the walls, desks, etc. of her school (my personal favorite: “YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO COMMISERATE.”) A chaotic section is filled with the laments of a boy who’s just been dumped. A boy complains that his girlfriend is so in love with Holden Caulfield that it’s putting a strain on their relationship. A girl hits her bully over the head with a plastic lunch tray, and said bully meditates on the fact that everybody who witnessed this attack was happy about it. Many of the characters talk about love, but the topics go far beyond common high-school amour. Each poet has a different struggle and a different outlook on life.
I’m familiar with David Levithan’s style: poetic, even when he’s writing in prose. So writing all in poetry was a natural transition. He has a lovely way of describing simple things in a way that makes them feel enchanted and important. All the voices in Realm of Possibility were believable; and they had a very honest quality to them. I felt that each character was confessing to me the entirety of their truths, leaving nothing held back, nothing that they were afraid to admit. This made it very easy to care about each character and to empathize with them, and because of the empathy that I felt for them as they walked me through situations I’ve never personally experienced, I feel that reading the book left me with an ever-so-slightly expanded understanding of the world and other people, which is a phenomenal thing for a book to do. The heart is all there in this one, and it’s very authentic, and powerful.
So the content was great, but there were times when I wished for the language of the poetry to go just a little bit further. I feel like there were times that the zing of the words didn’t quite live up to the zing of the meaning behind the words. It wasn’t bad, but it could have done more to pop and stick with me; I might have liked more really strong figurative language, I guess, or more musicality. It tended on the prosey side. And like I said, David Levithan’s prose style is already poetic, but since this book is officially written in poetry, maybe he could have taken that even further.
But hey, it’s better to have stellar content and only good language than stellar language but only good content.
If it comes down to “would recommend to read” or would not, I do recommend. That said, I might recommend one of his other books first, such as Boy Meets Boy, which is a beautiful novel about a teenage gay couple, or The Lover’s Dictionary, the story of a relationship told as a set of A-Z poetry-style dictionary entries.
This one gets an Illuminator award for thought-provokingness. Some chapters were take-or-leave, but the chapters were really something. They’ll stick with me.
One of my very favorite chapters was called “Unlonely”. It was made up of micro-poems that were only 3 lines long. I’ll leave you with this one.