by David Levithan
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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.
I have mad love for David Levithan and have read his last few books. To be honest, I prefer the ones he writes solo as I love his voice. Two Boys Kissing was one I entered with trepidation. I am an emotional reader and I knew this would be a heartfelt journey. David has a gift for capturing human emotions, fears, failures and triumphs. He captured all of this and more in this beautiful tale. Three word review: beautiful, honest and filled with life lessons.
The tale is narrated by “a Greek Chorus” of gay men from the generation lost to AIDS. Their generation was a time of rebellion, fear, anger and loss, but they helped pave the way for the society we have today. While we still have work to do as a whole, each day we make new strides towards equality and acceptance. Through the chorus, David takes us into the lives of several young, adolescent gay boys. His characters, Harry and Craig, two seventeen year old boys, set out to break the Guinness World Record by kissing for thirty-two hours. The tale that unfolds shows both the ugly and beautiful side of growing up different. From first love to family rejection, David weaves us in and out of the lives of some remarkable young men who are just trying to find their piece of happy.
The characters in Two Boys Kissing are flawed, beautiful, emotional, lost, and hopeful. They will tug at your heart-strings as they share their lives with you. Their issues are easily identifiable and while they struggle with acceptance this tale could easily be about a fat girl, a child with a speech impediment, a black boy at an all white school. David skillfully peels back the layers to these boys exposing their desires, fears and most of all their capacity to love and need to be loved. Each boy we meet has his own voice and I connected with them. I felt anger at the injustices and unnecessary hurts they encountered. The voice of the “Greek Chorus” was interesting. They were observing the boys along with us. Imagine if you will a bunch of men gathered around a television giving advice to a football team. The football team cannot hear them, but they shout advice, yell, “go for it” and reminisce about the good old days when they played the game. I found this voice to be unique, it allowed David to tell a story within a story, and offer insight in a show not tell way. It took a little bit for me to adjust to these voices, and separate them from the story, so go with it in the beginning.
Two Boys Kissing delivers a powerful message of love, hope and faith. Without preaching the author shows us both sides from the families themselves to the community. Some of the hatred they face for being themselves is cruel. We feel their helplessness, their anger but more than that we feel their need for acceptance and love. Some of the events were based on true events. I recommend you read David’s message in the back of the book. Levithan has written a powerful, inspirational, story in an non-accusatory way that delivers hope to young men and woman. His message is for those who are feeling lost, seeking acceptance, and are fearful of rejection. He does this all while shedding light to the outsider (the straight child, the parent of a gay son, the grandmother who thinks it’s a choice) making these boys more than just a label. I laughed, I cried, I became angry and I prayed as the story unfolded. David allowed me to mingle in the crowd, feel the emotions from all sides and race to that bridge as my heart pounded. I consumed this in one sitting and cannot wait to share it with others.
Two Boys Kissing is a powerful story and in a perfect world it would be a part of every high school’s reading curriculum. Once again David Levithan has amazed me with his voice.
Four and half coffee cups out of five