Saturday, July 25, 2015

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan

Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 12, 2015 by Ember (First edition published in 2013)
Genres: LGBTQ+, Realistic Fiction, Social Issues
Awards: National Book Award Longlist, 2013
               Lambda Literary Award, 2014
               Stonewall Honor Book, 2014

MLA: Levithan, David. Two Boys Kissing. New York: Ember, 2015. Print. ISBN-13: 978-0307931917. Paperback, $9.99.

Find it in your local library!

Narrated by a Greek Chorus of a generation of gay men lost to AIDS, Two Boys Kissing tells the stories of teens Craig and Harry, who are kissing in protest and to win the Guinness World Record for longest kiss; Peter and Neil, a mostly happy young couple in love; Ryan and Avery, tentatively embarking on a new relationship; and Cooper, who is struggling with his sexuality. As these teens’ lives intersect, they each discover the power of acceptance, identity, and love in a world that is almost ready to embrace them.

A kiss is never just a kiss. For Craig and Harry, a kiss is a tribute to their past love, a way of holding on to each other for just a little longer, a bold refusal to retreat in the face of cruel-hearted bigotry. For Peter and Neil, a kiss is a declaration of current love, a commitment to each other, a bright glimmer of conviction as they face an uncertain future. For Ryan and Avery, a kiss is the anticipation of future love, a moment filled with new affection and a stirring sense of possibility. For Cooper, a kiss is resignation, an empty gesture meant to fill some unnamed void, an silent pledge which he feels he will never be able to deliver.

An omniscient chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS narrates the hopeful, heart-rending stories of these seven teenage boys in various stages of self-discovery. We witness ex-boyfriends Craig and Harry’s difficult journey to beating the record for the world’s longest kiss in protest of their friend Tariq’s savage beating at the hands of homophobic bullies. We follow Peter and Neil as the seams of their comfortable love begin to tear when jealousy and Neil’s “open secret” with his family threaten to rip them apart. We watch candy-haired boys Ryan and Avery meet cute at a small town Pride Prom and go on their first dates, as Ryan struggles to manage his anger at the bigotry that surrounds them and Avery worries that Ryan won’t accept him when he discovers that he is trans. We hold our breath as Cooper, whose parents react badly to accidentally discovering that he’s gay, embarks on a self-destructive series of online hook-ups, desperate to make a human connection and increasingly convinced that there’s nothing left in his life worth living for.

Two Boys Kissing is also so much more than these stories; it is a call to action and activism from a generation in the not-so-distant past, a generation who died as they were just beginning to truly live. They remind LGBTQ+ men and women and their allies that though they may now live in a world of greater openness and acceptance (“We resent you. You astonish us.”), homophobia and hatred and misunderstanding still exist, and we can’t back down or spend our lives afraid. Living means so much more than merely being alive, and readers of all identities will find pieces of themselves in these characters as they embark on the familiar struggle of growing up and discovering who they are. In the end, we look to Craig and Harry to show us the power of bravery and love that can be found in Two Boys Kissing.


Stop what you're doing and go read this book. The writing is absolutely beautiful, the message is clear without being preachy, and these teens will stick with you long after you've finished reading. I never dog-ear books, and half the pages of this one are folded over because I didn't have a pen and paper to write down the gorgeous quotes that litter Two Boys Kissing. I will say that if you're used to a more linear type of narrative (clear beginning-middle-end), this book has one, but it's not as straightforward as most YA lit. The chorus of narrators (which was a risk taken by the author that absolutely pays off) takes a few pages to get used to, but once you do, it enhances the story significantly. I highly recommend this book to ALL teens 13 and up, especially those who may be struggling with identity and acceptance in their own lives.

This video features the author of Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan, giving a brief explanation of the story and reading from the beginning of the book. 

Teen Talk

"[Realistic YA] makes me think about what I would do if I were put in the same situation, it helps me relate to others." -Joel H., 15

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