Two Boys Kissing

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4.0
 
4.7 (1)
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Two Boys Kissing
Age Range
12+
Release Date
August 27, 2013
ISBN
0307931900
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New York Times bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. 

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other. 

This follow-up to the bestselling Every Day showcases David's trademark sharp-witted, warm-hearted tales of teenage love, and serves as a perfect thematic bookend to David's YA debut and breakthrough, Boy Meets Boy, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2013.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

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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Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0  (1)
Characters 
 
5.0  (1)
Writing Style 
 
5.0  (1)
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Heartbreaking, hopeful and so relevant
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Two Boys Kissing is an utterly unique novel, not only in its structure but in its innovative exploration of LGBTQI+ issues. The book is narrated from the perspective of a Greek Chorus of a generation of gay men who perished from AIDS, which increased the poignancy and the impact of the novel.

Two Boys Kissing is based on true events and follows the story of Harry and Craig, two seventeen year old ex-boyfriends who attempt to break the Guinness World Record of the world’s longest kiss: 32 hours, 12 minutes and 10 seconds. While Harry and Craig fight sleep-deprivation, dehydration and pain across their bodies from standing for hours on end, six other boys in nearby towns take inspiration from their story. There’s Neil and Peter, in a long-term relationship that is going nowhere; Avery and Ryan, who meet at a gay prom and are instantly attracted to one another; Cooper, who falls deeper into depression and the poison of gay hook-up sites after his parents’ violent reaction to his accidental coming out; and Tariq, who was the inspiration behind Harry and Craig’s kissing marathon after he was beaten up for his sexuality. Two Boys Kissing explores gender identity, the AIDS epidemic, coming out, and the wide-reaching effects of the LGBTQI+ community.

This novel approaches the many issues facing LGBTQI+ individuals in such a raw and unabashed manner. Questions like: Who am I? Is there something wrong with me? Should I come out? Does anyone love me? Would it be better if I weren’t alive? These problems are undoubtedly experienced by almost every member on the LGBTQI+ spectrum and there was something almost cathartic about reading it on the page, as if Levithan is exclaiming, You are not alone. That is why the inclusion of the Chorus of gay men was the only way a novel such as this could be narrated. I don’t believe the book would have had the same impact if set from the perspective of Craig, or Peter, or Cooper. This book is about the LGBTQI+ and wider community coming together and acknowledging those with differing genders, identities and sexual preferences, and helping them. Much like in the novel, as the generation of gay men that came before were looking over and wanting to protect the generation of gay men that came after.

The narration by the Greek Chorus was a bold decision by Levithan, one that can either make or break the novel for you. I have read a few reviews in which people were exasperated by the Chorus, and, while it took a little while for me to wrap my head around the style of writing, by the conclusion of the novel, I found them an ingenious inclusion and a distinctive technique. The Chorus touched on the problems gay men faced in youth which provided a direct correlation to the issues the main characters were experiencing. The issues LGBTQI+ people face are, after all, timeless. I look forward to the day in which they are no longer.

I was completely enthralled by Levithan’s characters and connected with each of them more than I thought I would have. I think my favourite character was Cooper as his story was so painful and unflinching. Cooper’s parents accidentally discovered he was gay through reading his messages to men of all ages on gay hook-up sites. They reacted terribly and violently, and he fled from them and spent the next 32 hours drifting, alone and desolate.

I adored Harry and Craig’s relationship: even though they were ex-boyfriends, their friendship prevailed so much so that they would do anything for each other. And they did – for 32 hours. There were a few indications that Harry and Craig might develop their friendship into something more after the marathon, and I like to think they would have.

Avery was another favourite character of mine, and a wonderful representation of transgendered people in YA fiction. His revelation was heart-warming, as was Ryan’s reaction. Tariq’s character broke my heart in many ways, especially the description of his attack and subsequent confusion: How did they know I was gay? That scene was touching and frightening all at once.

There were many times I grew angry at the community in this novel: the people who tried to stop Harry and Craig’s world record because they were disgusted and vindictive; the callers on the radio wishing that the seventeen-year-old boys got AIDS as punishment for what they were doing; and the reaction of parents who are supposed to be there for their children no matter what. I was on the brink of tears for many of these scenes, even as their inclusion in the book was topically significant.

Two Boys Kissing was an incredibly relevant and moving novel that sets about bringing people together and educating them on the issues LGBTQI+ people face every day. The hopeful tone of the novel encourages the idea that one day, preferably soon, a world will exist where people of all orientations, genders and identities, can live in peace without subjugation.
Good Points
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