Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

(Photo by Carla Rennick)

Even if you just skim my review, I beg you to take a look at this interview with Malinda Lo in which Levithan discusses the inspiration for the novel, the cover art, and YA publishing in general.

Summary (from 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.

I cannot possibly overstate how much I loved Two Boys Kissing. Still, of the countless laudable elements in this book, I will try to limit myself to naming just a few. Most outstanding is Levithan’s choice of narrator–more accurately, narrators. I have never read a book, YA or otherwise, written in the first person plural, and it does take some getting used to. But what it provides–a view of the present through the lens of the past–is a uniquely eye-opening gift. A generation of men whose lives were cut short, largely due to the neglect of the government and the society that should have had their backs, watches over with parental concern the newly maturing generation of gay boys trying to figure out how their sexuality fits into their lives and the world. In this way, without sugarcoating the present, Levithan teaches the reader how far the world has come.

It may be almost redundant to say that David Levithan has written a diverse book, but I still want to highlight some of the amazing representation in Two Boys Kissing. The focus of the story is on gay teen boys, of course, and among this group Levithan includes a transgender boy, delicately portraying how he experiences being both an insider and an outsider among his gay peers. The main cast also includes a beautiful and realistic array of races and ethnicities. The characters are male and female, old, middle-aged, and young, and of varying ideological positions. All of this variety allows the author to explore multiple intersectionalities and to demonstrate that looking at a person from the outside alone is actually not seeing them at all.

Finally, I have to talk about the title of this book. David Levithan is a strong force in the world of LGBTQ literature, in part because he doesn’t hide his writing behind ambiguous titles (his first book was called Boy Meets Boy). Two Boys Kissing raises the stakes even more while charmingly providing the briefest synopsis in the world. I love how straightforward it is because it sends the message to LGBT teens that their ideas of love, romance, and attraction are just as worthy of being in the spotlight as those of straight teens. How many books and movies have a picture of a heterosexual couple kissing or embracing on the front? Proudly covering the jacket of a book with the words and image of Two Boys Kissing normalizes it and adds one more check to the “you are valid” column. I also love that simply mentioning this book to friends at work means adding to the number of times that gay romance is casually–but non-metaphorically–acknowledged out loud.

Favorite line: “…he knows that the story is going to spread, and he hopes that maybe it’ll make people a little less scared of two boys kissing than they were before…”

Rating: 5/5


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