Review Detail

4.7 1
FeaturedHot
Young Adult Fiction 3925
Absolutely Beautiful
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
What I Liked:
After several disappointments with David Levithan's works written with Rachel Cohn and Andrea Cremer, I'd built up some healthy skepticism about whether his writing really worked for me. With Two Boys Kissing, I now know that he's an author I definitely need to be reading, and am no longer concerned about the collection of his books I already own. Two Boys Kissing is beautiful, a statement about what matters and what it's like to be a gay boy or man.

David Levithan's writing is pretentious, of that I have no doubt. It certainly will not appeal to a lot of readers, who will be annoyed by that, and I don't know how it will play with teen readers, but I love it. The writing in Two Boys Kissing is complex and beautiful and simple. There were so many beautiful quotes that are heartbreaking or inspiring or funny. Plus, I'm personally not bothered by pretentious writing so long as it fits the narrative style and it's perfect for Two Boys Kissing.

The narrators of Two Boys Kissing are, in fact, none of the boys involved in the plot of the story. In fact, they are all dead. In what the blurb aptly describes as a "Greek Chorus," gay men from times before, specifically a generation dead from AIDS watches the boys live out their lives and marvels at how times have changed. At first, I was immensely skeptical of this writing style, but I actually ended up being a huge fan of the way this played out. Though a bit distancing from the actual teen characters and their issues, I found myself highly connected to this chorus of dead men, choking up in every one of their little asides, either from sadness or the inspiring beauty of their words.

By having this chorus of men narrate, Levithan was able to do two things: universalize the experience of being a gay man into more than just what the eight boys specifically focused on have experienced and indicate how much progress has already been made in the acceptance of homosexuality. Certainly total acceptance remains in the future, but the chorus marvels at the fact that two boys can kiss in front of their high school for over a day and receive largely positive feedback. Being gay is no longer as closeted as it used to be.

Another aspect of Two Boys Kissing that I loved was the diversity of the characters, both ethnically and situationally. Characters, both main and minor, come from different racial backgrounds, and that's just a fact and not a defining characteristic. Levithan also portrays with the eight gay teens eight different experiences of being a young gay in America. There are the two boys kissing, broken up and trying to figure out how to become friends. There's a couple in a healthy relationship, accepted by both sets of parents. There's a potential couple in the making, one of the boys who is partway through his gender change from female to male. There's a boy who was badly beaten for his sexual identity, determined to support his best friends in their record-breaking kiss. Finally, there's a boy who fears no one will ever love him who trolls the internet for connection, pretending to be whatever someone wants on a gay dating website. Two Boys Kissing really focuses on capturing the whole range of experience and does so well.

What Left Me Wanting More:
My complaints are very minor. First off, and this could be very serious for some, Two Boys Kissing is definitely preachy. However, I support the messages herein and didn't mind the preaching. Still, it's worth noting that Levithan isn't setting a scene before the reader and leaving them to draw conclusions; he also sets out the conclusions he wants the reader to draw. The other thing, and this is really nitpicky, is that Levithan really loves the term "screwing," and uses it a lot. It really just seemed really out of place and overused, since I feel like it's slang that I don't hear all that much anymore.

The Final Verdict:
I loved Two Boys Kissing. Levithan has written a gorgeous novel with a unique perspective and really delved into the issues of being a gay male. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in GLBT fiction.
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August 14, 2013
This sounds pretty different than what I imagined, but still interesting.
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