Estelle: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing by David LevithanTwo Boys Kissing by David Levithan ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 208
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: sexuality, breaking records, relationships, family
Format read: ARC paperback from TLA (Thank you!)

Summary: Two boys (exes) try to break the world’s record of longest kiss. Two other boys in a long term relationship go with the ebb and flow of their romance. Two boys meet at a gay prom. One boy’s secret comes out. Encompassing these three separate stories is the narration from those who lost their life to AIDs.

I have no idea how David Levithan does it.

None. Nada. Zip.

His work in Two Boys Kissing is like a performance arts piece. As I was reading it, super savoring each word, I kept thinking about how I would love to hear all of it spoken aloud to an audience. The words, so beautiful when strung together, are just that effective. I was smiling, I was tearing up, my heart felt heavy, my heart felt light. How he writes such poetry without being overly flowery and keeping these lives so grounded, I will never know.

What I do know is that Two Boys Kissing has moved my favorite David novel (Love is the Higher Law) down a slot and will reign as number one for a long, long time.

Harry and Craig are best friends, ex-boyfriends, who are vying for the ultimate world record of longest kiss. They plan on kissing for over 32 hours in front of their high school, friends, family, and strangers. At the same time, a town or two over, Avery and Ryan meet at a gay prom, hoping it’s the start of something. Peter and Neil have been in a relationship for a stretch of time and are working through what happens when things aren’t so new anymore. Cooper is only out to those he “hooks up with” online but when his parents discover his truth, he flees.

With narration provided by those who have succumbed to AIDs, readers learn about their hardships, their joys, and how far the world has come and how far it still has to go for acceptance. The four stories weave within one another detailing varying degrees of relationships, honesty, and support. For every time my heart would break a little bit for these characters and even their “ancestors”, there were equally wonderful moments to be had around the corner (i.e. the most romantic visit to a bookstore ever and evidence that you can tweet and kiss at the same time).

Levithan challenges his reader with use of the “Greek chorus” and while I think it might take a little getting used to for some, their presence makes Two Boys Kissing feel epic without losing its accessibility. It’s touching without being melodramatic. Their commentary and their observations really lend a ton of perspective to how society has evolved and struggled and continues to do both today. And the characters! I have no doubt that each of these characters truly represents a living and breathing person dealing with similar situations, and I think it’s a testament to David’s talent that he makes them feel that way (and not like caricatures) in 208 short pages.

Two Boys Kissing is honestly one of the most profound and powerful books I have ever read. It needs to make its way into as many hands, homes, and bookshelves as possible.

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12 thoughts on “Estelle: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

  1. Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley) says:

    Okay, I love David Levithan so much. I know that’s no big thing because EVERYBODY does, but when I see him, I CAN’T BREATHE OR SPEAK. My heart beats really fast and I get sweaty (so unladylike). It’s true. I’m such a fangirl to the nth degree because he has more talent in his pinky than most people will ever dream of. And his mind is so open and his writing is pretty much flawless and I love that he edits other authors and moderates panels and walks around the streets when he’s doing appearances with a backpack and an ipod like he’s just a REGULAR PERSON. That being said, 3 things: 1) I saw him in Charleston last year at YALLFest. He came into a donut shop where I was having breakfast like it was no big deal and I choked on my food because…(I already told you) I can’t breathe when I get that close to genius. Y’all may think that’s stupid, but whatever whatever. 2) That day, he signed Every Day for me, and I can’t bring myself to read it because I have a few of THOSE AUTHORS that I get so nervous about their new work when it comes out because I’ve loved their past work so much – does that make sense? Probably not. So I see it on the shelf, sometimes I touch it, talk to it, and love it. But I’ve not read it yet. I’m SO LAME. 3) I met an author – a gay male author – at BEA this past year and asked him what’s the best thing he’s recently read – he very quickly said it was this book and that he was brought to tears throughout the book while he was reading. He said that had he been able to read THIS BOOK just a few years ago when he was younger, his ENTIRE LIFE would’ve been different. THAT’s how powerful this book is, he said. So I want to get my hands on it and read it, even though DLevithan is one of those authors that I tend to freak out about their new work. Since it made that much of a difference in this guy’s life, I need to read it. And since you loved it, then yeah, for sure. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it either. Great review on this one, E.

  2. Annette says:

    I hate to say this, but I’m just being honest. I wish the cover was different. And maybe even the title. I just think there are SO MANY kids that would be drawn to this book — but won’t want to carry it around and have other kids see what they are reading….

    This will (maybe) get checked out by girls who like romance books….

  3. Tiff @ Mostly YA Lit says:

    WOW. Estelle, you’ve definitely convinced me that I MUST read this book as soon as I can get my grabby hands onto it. I have been waiting impatiently for Two Boys Kissing for awhile, but I wasn’t sure about the premise or the Greek chorus. Now I’m sure. THANK YOU.

  4. Vyki @ On The Shelf says:

    This book sounds like it could be very touching and your review has definitely made me want to bump it up on my TBR! I haven’t read anything with the Greek chorus, but I am interesting to see how that is. Great review 🙂

  5. Jen @ Books and Other Happy Ever Afters says:

    This book doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever read before! I’ve experienced Levithan’s other solo novel, Every Day, and it was seriously insightful and lovely. I can only imagine how beautiful this one will be! And all of the different scenarios just make it more intriguing. I’ll have to pick this one up soon! Thanks for the fabulous review, Estelle!

  6. Ashley @ Ashley Loves Books says:

    David Levithan is one of those authors that makes me think my dream of being published shouldn’t ever happen because I will never, EVER be worthy of sharing shelves with him. I can’t even call him a master because it seems so insufficient, you know? I remember reading Boy vs. Boy and thinking it was a revelation; and then Love is the Higher Law (which is my favourite Levithan too! Followed closely by Every Day. I have not read Two Boys Kissing though, so it could be unseated quickly…) just…blew me off my feet and knocked my socks off and every other metaphor for altering my world. I love love love how fearless he is with his content, how it’s all so different and unique but somehow completely relatable too. I’ve been counting down the days until I can get my hands on this book, and your review is not making it any easier! Fantastic, E 🙂

  7. Jamie says:

    YES YES YES I should have just directed everyone over to your review instead of actually writing a review. Pretty sure this one has also usurped all his other novels as my fave! I was wary of the Greek chorus narration when I read the summary for it but I was like WHATEVER IT IS DAVID and then when I read it I wasn’t into it in the beginning but soon LOVED it.

  8. Alexa Y. says:

    I’ll admit it: this book intimidates me for some reason. I’ve only read one David Levithan book – The Lover’s Dictionary – and have not touched any others for some reason. But the way you rave about this book in your review has me dying to read it for myself. The story sounds very different, and in a way that’s refreshing, new and still relatable. I can’t wait to read it for myself!

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