Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
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.