David Levithan’s The Realm of Possibility is a remarkable novel written in prose, making it one of the most unique young adult novels to be read. It’s not like every novel, in more ways than one. Levithan writes about twenty characters, each with their own chapter, but divided into five sections. Each poem differs in length, but no character is more important than the other. There is not a designated protagonist, nor is there a designated topic. Levithan writes about struggling with sexuality, race, religion, and more. He manages to reach every teen, offering each of his readers at least one character to identify with. With its universal appeal, artistic quality, and strength to undeniably stand the test of time, The Realm of Possibility is bound to be a classic. Every generation of teenagers is sculpted by the social, political, and economic events of their adolescence. Diana Devecha, a developmental psychologist, analyzes how the social aspect of current events has been influenced by the technological uproar of today’s society.
Devecha uses research done by Jean Twenge to distinguish current adolescents from the past generations’ based on information she gathers from nationally representative surveys. These surveys have asked teenagers the same questions year after year in order to allow comparisons among Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and iGens at precisely the same ages. Twenge names the generation born between 1995 and 2012 “iGens” for their prevalent use of the iPhone. The author and psychologist believes iGens are more respectful and inclusive because of the circumstances of current society. Today’s teens are exposed to the realities worldwide due to the quick and easy access they have to the news. Adults tend to assume teens today are oblivious to current events because they are using their technology too often to socialize, but apps such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube can actually contribute to informing its users. All of these popular applications have accounts that intend to keep viewers informed of local and global headlines. Snapchat and Twitter have designated sections that are exclusively intended to inform viewers of recent events. Instagram and YouTube have users who upload daily, even hourly, with updates just as any news station would. News stations even have accounts on these apps to reach audiences that may not come across it on the radio or television. Because of the easy access teens have to such devices and applications, they can be informed quicker of events, including the growing LGBT+ movement.
Devecha considers how technology affects today’s generation of teens’ mental, emotional, and physical health. Devecha concludes that teens today are more inclusive. In today’s society, it is much easier to come across true stories from personal perspectives through social media and the internet. One no longer has to purchase a memoir to read about someone’s traumatic experience that shaped them as a person. These sorts of stories can be found summarized online or even simply posted on one’s personal account. People decide to come out online because they feel safer there than they do in person or with their own family. A survey of more than ten thousand LGBT teens shows that 4 in 10 LGBT youth feel their community is not accepting (Hartogs). 73% of youth surveyed reported being more honest about themselves online than in the real world. 53% of people report being out online, while 39% of people feel that people you meet in person should not be generally trusted (‘Chapter 3: The Coming Out Experience’). Research shows that people have been coming out sooner in recent generations and that LGBT+ discrimination has been decreasing. The internet has helped teens find acceptance when there is none in their homes or schools. Similarly, Levithan’s book leaves the audience feeling safe and accepted. Considering the book was released in 2004, well before smartphones were popular (Arthur), LGBT+ books likely had a similar effect on adolescents at the time that social media does on adolescents today. On May 17, 2004, the first legal same-sex marriage in the United States took place in Massachusetts (‘LGBT Rights Milestones Fast Facts’).
In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that marriage cases that limit marriage to opposite-sex couples are unconstitutional. In August of 2016, The Human Rights Campaign estimated that there were at least 41 openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Olympians, while there were only 23 that participated in London 2012. In April of 2017, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination against LGBT employees after Kimberly Hively sued Ivy Tech Community College for violating Title VII of the act by denying her employment. Over a year later, Democratic US Representative Jared Polis won the Colorado governor’s race, becoming the nation’s first openly gay man to be named governor. There are approximately nine million members of the LGBT+ community in America today (Greve). This can be roughly compared to the population of New Jersey. Today’s adolescents are less likely to renounce Levithan’s work because of the advancements the LGBT+ community has made since the release of the novel. Levithan released his book at the perfect time. By releasing it in 2004, he allowed himself to reach out to the LGBT+ community before the movement truly advanced. At this time, writing about a gay couple was not mistaken for “trendy.” In recent years, there have been people among both celebrities and locals who have come out for attention.
Films, television series, novels, and autobiographies have been accused of only coming out as a marketing ploy in the past few years. Levithan’s book cannot be accused of being despicably trendy because, at the time of its release, it was actually a risk. However, The Realm of Possibility is more than just a groundbreaking novel on sexuality. ‘Poetry can be a vehicle for messages of social justice (Kemp).” Levithan’s poetry reaches stories of race, religion, and ultimately just an understanding of the different parts of society. Levithan even addresses students who suffer from anorexia or are struggling with losing a parent. America is much more ethnically and racially diverse than it was fifty years ago (Fry). “Large-scale immigration from Asia and Latin America, the rise of racial intermarriage and differences in fertility patterns across racial and ethnic groups have contributed to Millennials being more racially and ethnically diverse than prior generations.” With America becoming more and more diverse with time, The Realm Of Possibility can be expected to be read by various growing communities of minorities in the future. Levithan wrote his book to provide his audience with a safe and secure environment.
He built a school of students, all with different stories, to show the reader that they are not alone. Some of the most famous works intentionally lack specified images and characteristics because it allows readers to visualize the setting as their own (FitzGerald). Young adult novels, such as Levithan’s, are so popular among students because they encourage individuality and ensure that their identity cannot be denied. He recognizes that past generations try to keep their children from reading novels in which they will defy the morals their parents have instilled in them, and it is undeniable that the same applies here. However, considering the shift in societal views, the book will likely, one day, be read without being viewed as controversial. David Levithan’s The Realm of Possibility can be expected to be read by generations to come because of how it tackles society’s biggest flaws. One would be ignorant to think that our issues with racism, homophobia, transphobia, and religious discrimination will be resolved by the time the next generation of high schoolers is reading this novel. This novel will continue to serve as a comrade throughout the stages of societal awareness as it creates a reputation for itself as a classic.
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