Two Boys Kissing
David Levithan, 2013
Harry and Craig have decided to try and break the Guinness World Record for a continuous kiss, which currently stands at just over 32 hours. Meanwhile, the lives of other gay teenagers are also told: from established relationships (Neil and Peter), new relationships (Ryan and Avery), and the lost and lonely (Cooper).
This was a very interesting book. Based on the story of two male college students who actually did break the Guinness World Record a few years ago, it’s amazing how interesting a story can be where nothing much really happens. All Harry and Craig are doing throughout most of the book is standing on the lawn of the high school, kissing. But their emotions, and the emotions and actions of the people around them, are what make their stories important.
Also, this book isn’t just about Harry and Craig. It’s also about Ryan and Avery, who meet at a gay prom and decide to try a first date, to see if there is anything there. They both have their own issues – Avery was born a girl but has always felt that he was a boy, and fortunately always had the acceptance of his parents, and Ryan finds the most acceptance from his aunt, and just wants out of the small town with so much hate for who he is. It’s also about Neil and Peter, who have been in a relationship for over a year, but Neil is just beginning to deal with a family that knows he’s gay but has a hard time accepting it. It’s also about Cooper, who was accidentally outed to his parents, and who is searching for someone he can be with who he can feel something for, and who will love him back. And the whole thing is narrated by a Greek Chorus of men who have died of AIDS.
I know some people find the narration hard to get past – it’s certainly not your typical format, having an collective, dead, omnipresent narrator – but I thought that it worked really well to tie all of the stories together, and also to tie the stories into the bigger picture. The fact that the book was able to do this without getting preachy about the (admittedly horrible) way that the general public dealt with the gay population when AIDS first showed up was actually pretty impressive.
This is the first solo effort of Levithan’s that I’ve read – having only previously read his collaboration with John Green on Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but I know that I’ll certainly be reading more of him in the future. I think that there are very few authors who write stories for gay teens and write them well, and based on these two books, I think that Levithan is probably one of the best. It’s good to know that there are books like this one out there for kids struggling with coming out.
Overall, a really well-done book. A quick read, but some really powerful emotional content within these 200 pages. Recommended for any teens, but especially those who are looking for the strength to come out and to be who they need to be.