Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.
Page Count: 208.
Published: August 27, 2013.
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Source: BEA Signing.
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.
If anyone doubts David Levithan's ability to tell a raw and beautiful story about the LGBT community, they must reserve judgement until after reading this novel. I think he portrays not only different voices within the community very strongly but also just different kinds of relationships, with struggles that affect all kinds of couples, gay or straight.
This was definitely a powerful novel, which I think was made all the more powerful by Levithan's choice of narrator. Right from the beginning there is this poignant narration from "us" that speaks volumes. Instead of using the multiple different boys whose stories he is telling as narrators (as that, I think, would get too jumbled and confusing), he presents a Greek Chorus type narration. The narrative voice is an omniscient "we" meant to represent all the gay men who have died of AIDS. This "we" tells the story as if looking down on the boys but also relaying what is going on in their minds, all the while telling of their own struggles and joys; what they miss and what we the living should appreciate while we still can. It was different than anything I have ever read before and that made it extremely powerful. There was an undeniable feeling of pain and loss in the narration, but there was also wisdom, and most importantly an overpowering sense of hope.
The multiple different ongoing storylines were related in such a way that I not only grew to see and feel the struggles of each boy, but I also grew to love them. There were so many different stages of relationship represented and they all were presented as completely normal, as they should be. Levithan did a wonderful job of showing that gay relationships are truly the same as straight relationships, especially in the way the two partners feel about and relate to one another. This novel has everything you would expect from a novel about straight relationships: love, laughter, longing, pointless fights, confusion about feelings, and those small moments that make everything worth it. It takes all these moments and adds to them the struggle for acceptance and the repercussions of being gay in a world where people refuse to allow these boys to be who they are. The pain and the embarrassment that feel so out of place in what should be a romantic story for some of these boys only serves to highlight the truth of the situation and the deep need for an accepting world.
The only area in which I really felt this story was lacking was in Cooper's story. I wanted more depth from him as it felt like his story was solely focused on his either trying to cover up or wallowing in his sad state. While I thought it was effective at showing just how hard living in secret and going unaccepted is, I felt like his story was the least developed. Other than that, though, I thought each storyline was strong and so vitally necessary to the narrative and to normalizing gay relationships while also trying to help everyone who hasn't experienced some of these struggles to understand.
Two Boys Kissing is a powerful and honest novel that I think everyone should read, ally to the community or not. Maybe especially if you're not an ally, because there is a painful truth to this story that will hopefully lead to further understanding. This is such an important novel, especially at this time in history. Well done, David Levithan.