Meaningful Connections: A David Levithan Book Review

by - January 07, 2021

In 2004, author Ned Vizzini published his novel Be More Chill, a story of high school student Jeremy Heere who transforms from stereotypical nerd to the coolest guy in class. It was adapted into a musical in 2015 and made its Broadway debut in 2019. In 2021, it was adapted again - this time into a graphic novel.

Author David Levithan, who is a fan of Vizzini’s, wrote the afterword to the original novel and was the perfect fit when it came time to create the graphic novel edition.

“I immediately said yes,” Levithan said. “Even though I’d never written a graphic novel before, I’d edited a bunch, so I was very familiar with the format, and thought it would be fun to bring [Vizzini’s] story to life that way.”

The story revolves around Jeremy Heere swallowing a pill-sized supercomputer called a squip, which guarantees to bring him everything he most desires in life. The squip instructs him on what to wear, how to walk and talk, and before he knows it, he’s friends with his former enemies and has the attention of every girl in school. What he learns the hard way, however, is that it comes with consequences.

While developing the story, as is typical for writers and illustrators, Levithan and artist Nick Bertozzi worked almost entirely separate.

“Nick sent in some character sketches that totally showed he understood the story and the characters,” Levithan said. “And then he just ran with it, based on my script.”

The graphic novel stayed true to the original in many ways, including the time period. For Levithan, it was exciting to decide which pieces of early-00s history would make it into the storyline (including references to 2000 Grammy Award-winning song “Who Let The Dogs Out”, colorful iMac desktop computers and Motorola razr flip phones) but jokingly admits the most difficult part was admitting that the early 00s made it historical fiction.

Not only was it a joy and honor for Levithan to adapt the novel, but it gave him another reason to stand by its message.

“The reason I love the novel, and the reason I believe the musical adaptation has resonated so much, is because Ned was so on-the-mark about how technology can alter our personhood, and how the most meaningful connections between people are the ones that are made genuinely,” he said. “Ned knew readers need to think about such things as our century began, and it’s certainly still the case.”

Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel is available here.

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