Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (a Random House imprint)
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 208
Source of Book: Book provided by the publisher to Book Divas for review
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.
TWO BOYS KISSING is the story of the modern day gay teenager told through the collective voice of the past generation of gay men who came of age during the AIDS epidemic. It is the story of Craig and Harry attempting to break the world record for the longest kiss, over 32 hours, even though they are no longer in a romantic relationship. Interwoven around that main storyline, it is also the story of other young men having their own personal experiences with their significant others, their family, their friends, and the accepting and non-accepting world around them. It is also the story of Peter and Neil who are a couple struggling with how to keep the spark alive after being together long enough to know each other so well. It is also the story of Avery and Ryan who have just met and are forging their way through the beginning stages of getting to know someone you are drawn to. It is also the story of Cooper, who is alone after running away from an angry father who discovers he is gay. Indelibly, it is also the broader story of the generation of gay men who have passed, and their observations, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their voice putting into context what today's youth experience, and the realization that as much as it may be better, there are still some in society who will make it more difficult for this generation of kids.
Through this unique narration voice, David Levithan has created a poetically lyrical honesty. It is the story of one, the story of a few, the story of many, the story of those who came before and the story of those yet to come. It highlights this unique period of time where the voices of the past are in awe of, wistful for, and fearful of the experiences today's gay youth have available to them. In this short period of time in which this book takes place, the weight of the past and the present and the future is felt strongly and honestly. They say, "Trust us: There is a nearly perfect balance between the past and the future. As we become the distant past, you become a future few of us would have imagined." By juxtaposing the feelings of the narrators' experiences in the 80s and their need to hide with the openness of this generation's gay youth, who may still at times feel the need to hide, it creates a level of suspense and hope for the future. There is a medley of voices showing a variety of experiences, but ultimately it comes down to the individual experience of just one. Each individual one. Through coming out, growing relationships, getting past hurt, beginning flirtation, facing hatred, and feeling lost, each character's journey is unique and develops at a different pace, while all living intertwined narratives. The point is obvious, "The minute you stop talking about individuals and start talking about a group, your judgment has a flaw in it." It is a moving story. It is a story of hope. It is a beautifully written story of beautiful moments and horrifying ones as well. It is a story set against the backdrop of an image of two boys kissing and the reactions to that image. If Avery's feelings are true, "...he doesn't feel anyone can be a true part of his story until he or she hears it and accepts it," then the reader gets a chance to be a part of this story by hearing and accepting the experiences of these characters representing what life might really be like for this generation. This is a books of truths, and as Levithan writes, "The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest," but "Saying the truth out loud makes it more real." TWO BOYS KISSING says the truth out loud, even if it is hard to do.
*As some scenes and moments are graphic in physical description or mature in emotional nature, this may not be an easy book for all, but it is an important book. Teens need to know that there is a voice that speaks for them, and I think this book can be that voice for many.