Reader's Choice Review #2: Two Boys Kissing

Reader's Choice is a weekly meme inspired by Christina at Reader of Fiction's Sadie Hawkins Sunday, where you, the readers of this blog, get to choose what I read and review on the blog each Saturday/Monday, depending on the circumstances.

Two Boys Kissing
David Levithan
Series: None
Released: August 27th, 2013
Publisher: Knopf BFYR
Rating: 4.5 stars
Word Rating: Important
Reviewed by: Blythe
Recommended by: Scott of Scott Reads It and Gillian of Writer of Wrongs

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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.

We gather the things we learned, and they don't nearly add up to fill the space of a life. You will miss the taste of Froot Loops. You will miss the sound of traffic. You will miss your back against his. You will miss him stealing the sheets.

Do not ignore these things.


This review is not really a review for the book and its merits so much as me rambling about how important I feel this book is for gay teens to read. My apologies. 

Two Boys Kissing has officially cemented my love, appreciation, and respect for David Levithan. It has cemented my love, appreciation, and respect for him both as a person, from the standpoint of someone who is and always will be an active supporter of gay rights, and it has also cemented my love, appreciation, and respect for him as a writer, from the standpoint of a reader who is in a state of endless wonder and awe every time she picks up a novel of Levithan's.

However, as much as I found myself loving Levithan's previous novel, Every Day, I have to say that Two Boys Kissing is my absolute favorite work by him. Two Boys Kissing is important. Two Boys Kissing is gorgeous--stunning. Two Boys Kissing is poignant, and it's touching, and it's an utter charm. And it needs to be read.

The beginning may be rough for some readers--it was for me, however slightly. I initially found the narrative of gay men having lost their lives to AIDs at first odd, and to be honest, rather disconcerting. I found their use of "we" to note something, as well as their looking upon their lives and their deaths, irrevocably creepy at times. But as the novel progressed I grew to appreciate the originality of the narrative, and can say with absolute certainty that Two Boys Kissing would in no way bear the same amount of poignancy had it not been narrated by, as the synopsis put it, a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDs.

Levithan tackles multiple perspectives throughout the course of Two Boys Kissing--some more interesting than others, some more emotional, but all utterly captivating and spellbinding. Each perspective follows a gay teenager and their daily plights being just that--a gay teen, in a world where such a thing is so deeply frowned upon by far too many. This is a problem so many gay teens face today: their struggle, seeing such contempt towards homosexuals as a whole almost every time they turn on the television, turn on the radio, go on the internet. Their hesitation to be who they are and embrace it, in fear of disappointing or even shaming their own parents, who are supposed to love them regardless. Their fear of being shunned and ignored eternally by their friends, with whom yesterday they were friendlier than ever, all for being who they are.

This is what David Levithan depicts with Two Boys Kissing, sometimes subtly, sometimes not. With one perspective, the fear of opening yourself up the others and welcoming yourself to love, in the fear that your partner may not accept you for who you are fully. Another perspective, depicting the fear of opening yourself up to your parents, and the everlasting fear of how they may react. And another, portraying the situation every gay teen dreads most: your parents don't accept you for who you are. While one was lacking the depth that I feel could have made it have more of an impact, each of these perspectives is met with such beauty and emotion seeping through the pages that you can't help but feel that each of these teenagers--Harry, Craig, Cooper, Avery, Ryan, Neil, and Peter, are real people. And the fact of the matter is, they are.

The real-life parallels of these characters may not go by the names of the characters in the novel, but the undeniable fact is that people like the aforementioned characters do exist in real life, and their problems exist within each of those people, as well. Each of the problems the characters face in this novel are ones real teens, and even adults, face daily. But they end up getting through it. They end up getting through it all. With support from friends. Support from family. Support from strangers. There will be the haters. There will be the people who oppose what you stand for. But then again, isn't there always? Among many other valuable things to be understood while reading Two Boys Kissing, this much is true, and I feel is crucial for any gay teenagers living in the constant fear of disproval, dereliction, or anything else: for every person to go out of their way to strike down everything you are, and everything you stand for, there will be ten people waiting there for you to help you restore the damage and build you up again. And that, in essence, is Two Boys Kissing.

To quote the Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDs that narrates this beautiful novel, please know that the above is true. Please, always keep these things in mind.

Do not ignore these things.

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7 comments :

  1. Ah, I love all the points you made and agree with ALL of them. The world we live in has changed so much from even when we look at it like 10 years back and it's important that kids who are gay feel safe and loved and I had no idea David was such a supporter of gays' rights. I have respect for him even though I haven't read any of his books. I think this one would be a great one to start with though. I'm glad you liked this book and I hope that whichever David's book you pick up in the future, you'll have the same reaction and love towards them.

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  2. I know a lot of people love David Levithan's books, but I can't really get into the ones I've read (or tried to read). It's something about the characters, I think, and how their ultra-individuality and quirkiness almost seems forced at times. When I was a teenager, I saw a lot of conformity. Not everybody was marching to the beat of their own drum. A few were, sure; but it wasn't the majority, as some of Levithan's casts of characters would lead one to believe. Another thing that struck me while reading Every Day was the number of LGBT characters. It didn't seem realistic. Two Boys Kissing might not irk me as much, however, if homosexuality is one of the major themes. Still... I'm not sure I'm willing to give this author another shot. I've tried twice... and I'm still not impressed.

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  3. I'm SO GLAD you loved this book. I want to read it so badly. It just sounds so gorgeous and moving and amazing. David Levithan is amazing. I love every word you just wrote! :D

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  4. This sounds fantastic!! I really want to read this one. I have ever since I heard about it. Awesome review!! It sounds like such a beautiful book!!

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  5. "I initially found the narrative of gay men having lost their lives to AIDs at first odd, and to be honest, rather disconcerting. I found their use of "we" to note something, as well as their looking upon their lives and their deaths, irrevocably creepy at times."

    I would too, although it is quite original, and when I first read about the book in the EW announcement, I wondered how he would build a narrative around the marathon kiss--and this seems brilliant. And as you said, it seems very poignant to include.

    "This is a problem so many gay teens face today: their struggle, seeing such contempt towards homosexuals as a whole almost every time they turn on the television, turn on the radio, go on the internet."

    Yesterday I was listening to "Same Love" by Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis on Youtube, then I scrolled to the comments and ugh. It's strange that the strong specifically says, have you seen the Youtube comments lately? And there it is, again. I'm glad that you are promoting this title. I wish I could too.

    "While one was lacking the depth that I feel could have made it have more of an impact, each of these perspectives is met with such beauty and emotion seeping through the pages that you can't help but feel that each of these teenagers--Harry, Craig, Cooper, Avery, Ryan, Neil, and Peter, are real people"

    :). That must be a good contrast to the Greek Chorus, since in our present, without constant remind of the past, it might be hard to think of all those of who lost their lives for that reason as being real to our lives. Real to our histories and our present.

    "for every person to go out of their way to strike down everything you are, and everything you stand for, there will be ten people waiting there for you to help you restore the damage and build you up again."

    Yes.yes.yes.yes.
    So much love for this review :).

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  6. Great review! Thanks for using my recommendation ;) Reading this book will be interesting because I'm actually (sort-of) writing (or trying to) write a Coming-Of-Age GLBT novel from a straight guy's POV.
    -Scott Reads It!

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  7. Thanks Wt! I actually thought of you when I was writing parts of this. I knew you'd have some thinky thoughts as well!
    "gay men

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