Rating: 5 stars
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.
Reviewing “Two Boys Kissing” is hard. There’s so much going on in this book and yet you have to be really careful not to reveal too much, because somehow, there really isn’t all that much going on, either. Sounds weird, I know, but that’s how it felt to me.
I will be honest and admit that the first 20 pages were weird. The story is told by a collective “we” (gay men who died of AIDS) to “you” (the gay boys/men of this day and age). Usually, I really don’t like it when an author addresses the reader directly. So it took some getting used to.
And then, on page 20, something made my breath hitch and suddenly, I just couldn’t stop. Just like that, David Levithan had me hooked. Suddenly, the strange pov felt perfectly normal and like the most obvious choice. Something just clicked there and I loved the book.
The tone was both light and dark at the same time. There was the sweet getting-to-know each other of two potential lovers, Avery and Ryan. And then there was Cooper, who felt so lost and alone. Craig and Henry, former lovers, now best friends, trying to have the longest kiss of the world, and trying to figure out their feelings for each other at the same time. Peter and Neil, already a couple and getting a bit lost in every day life. And then, of course, there are the gay men who lead us through the story. All of these characters have an element of lightness and an element of tragedy. I smiled a lot during this book, but I was also deeply moved and came close to grieve at times.
“Two Boys Kissing” only has 196 pages, and yet the author managed to give his seven characters real depth. Other authors struggle with that when they have twice as many pages and only two MCs to introduce. David Levithan really impressed me here. I felt connected to each and everyone. He even managed to make me care about the minor characters in this story.
The author packed some very deep issues in this little book: coming out, gender identity, depression, AIDS, homophobia and so on. By all means, that should feel like way too much for so few pages. And yet it worked. It neither felt overloaded with angst and drama, nor did it feel like the issues didn’t get enough time to unfold. I have absolutely no idea how David Levithan made this all work.
All in all, I just absolutely loved this book. This is my second book by David Levithan, “Boy Meets Boy” being my first, and it definitely won’t be my last. I already snatched a copy of “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” for next to nothing and begged a classmate for more books by him. I think it’s safe to say that I am now an official fan of David Levithan.
If you decide to give this book a try, don’t stop reading after the initial “what the fuck” moment the unusual writing style will cause. I’m convinced something will flip the switch for you, too, and you will end up loving this book as much as I did.
Cover: The cover shows two boys kissing. Simple and yet it really works.
Sales Link: Amazon
Hardcover, 196 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published August 2013)
Original TitleTwo Boys Kissing
ISBN 0307931900 (ISBN13: 9780307931900)
Literary Awards: National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2013), Stonewall Book Award Nominee for Children’s & Young Adult Literature (2014), Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2014), Lambda Literary Award Nominee for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult (2014), The Inky Awards Nominee for Silver Inky (2014)