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Two Boys Kissing Hardcover – August 27, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up–Narrated by an often heavy-handed Greek chorus of men who died of AIDS, this novel features the stories of one transgender and several gay teens. It focuses on Harry and Craig, friends and ex-boyfriends who have set out to beat the Guinness World Record for kissing. Harry's parents accept that he is gay and are there as witnesses, while Craig's parents find out that he's gay after his mother is told about their record-breaking attempt. Other characters include Tariq, the victim of a hate crime; boyfriends Neil and Peter; and female-to-male (FTM) transgender teen Avery and his love interest, Ryan. Finally, there is isolated, angry, and disaffected Cooper. He spends his nights trolling sex sites online and runs away from home when confronted by his furious parents. Although Levithan has a tendency toward didacticism, his characters are likable, with some more developed than others. The story will engage readers, both female and male. The author's note discusses the true events that inspired this story. Despite its flaws, this title is recommended based on subject need.–Nancy Silverrod, San Francisco Public Libraryα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
It’s impossible to ignore the context of Levithan’s latest novel. The timing is perfect—in the age of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better (2011) and recent Supreme Court rulings on marraige equality, a book meant for young adults features a real-life gay teen couple kissing on the cover, standing in for the book’s two fictional boys, ex-boyfriends hoping to share the world’s longest kiss. The story is narrated from the beyond by the “shadow uncles”—gay men of the AIDS generation—who tell millennial gay boys, “We don’t want our legacy to be gravitas.” These narrators marvel and remark upon Harry and Craig’s kiss (a protest of hate crimes committed against a friend), the impact on two other couples at different stages of their relationships, and a hopeless loner in clear emotional danger. Levithan leans intensely into this work, which occasionally reveals the gears grinding the piece into shape, thereby dissipating some of the magic. Still, there’s little doubt that this title, with its weight, significance, and literary quality, will find its way into LGBTQ and wider canons. Stock up. Grades 9-12. --Courtney Jones
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Top customer reviews
Seventeen-year-old former boyfriends Harry and Craig are planning to set a new Guinness World Record for continuous kissing. To do so, they'll need to kiss continuously for over 32 hours. This will take physical strength, yes, but also significant emotional fortitude and support from many, many people, since the sight of two boys kissing at all--let alone publicly for 32+ hours--will be difficult if not downright unacceptable for some.
While Harry and Craig undertake their record-setting quest, navigate their true feelings for one another, and deal with the myriad number of issues that will arise during this period, two other young couples are dealing with their own issues. Peter and Neil, who have been together for over a year, are struggling with trying to determine what their expectations of each other and their future should be, while Avery and Ryan, who just met, are struggling with issues of gender identity and all of the nerves of a blossoming relationship. Meanwhile, Tariq, a friend of Craig and Harry's, is trying to overcome his fears after being beaten up by a group of thugs, and Cooper is dealing with the aftermath of his parents' discovery of his homosexuality.
All of these storylines may seem somewhat typical, but Levithan develops each with depth and empathy in a short number of pages. And what lifts this book up even further is that it is narrated by a nameless Greek chorus of men who died of AIDS. Part lamentation for what they lost, part reflection on the struggles each of the characters are going through, since they've seen it all, their words are so insightful, so moving, so dead-on in many, many ways, I literally found myself tearing up multiple times as I flew through the book.
"You must understand: We were like Cooper. Or at least had moments when we were like Cooper. Just as we had moments when we were like Neil, Peter, Harry, Craig, Tariq, Avery, Ryan. We had moments when we were like each of you. This is how we understand. We wore your flaws. We wore your fears. We made your mistakes."
I read this entire book in one day, and I was moved and inspired beyond my expectations. Levithan made me laugh, think, and, as I mentioned earlier, cry with his words. I can't even begin to count the number of times he so perfectly captured many of the feelings I had as a teenager struggling with my sexuality, with self-esteem, with bullying, with wondering if my parents and family and friends would ever be able to accept me for who I was. And the book was pitch-perfect in its portrayal of the rush of emotions when you first meet someone you like and realize they feel the same way, the anxiety of wondering whether there will be a second date, the beauty of a first kiss.
I've said before how much I marvel at the state of YA fiction today, especially LGBT-themed fiction. I wish that Two Boys Kissing had existed when I was a teenager, because it would have been a tremendous help and comfort to me. I wish there was some way this book could be required reading for those struggling with their sexuality and with self-acceptance, as I believe it really could make a difference. Levithan doesn't create an unrealistic world where there are no problems and no struggles, but he shows how wonderful life has the potential to be, even when you don't think it can.
This is honestly one of the best books I've read in some time. Thank you, David Levithan, for this experience. I feel changed for the better.
Every now and then I read a book that I just know will stick with me forever. When I find one of these special books, I want every person I know – and even ones I don't – to read it. That was definitely the case with Two Boys Kissing. This book was truly something special and I can't recommend it highly enough.
“If you let the world in, you open yourself up to the world. Even if the world doesn't know that you're there.”
I read the audiobook version, which I was pleasantly surprised to find was narrated by the author himself. The book itself was powerful, but having the author read his own words made it that much more so. There's something about listening to an author reading their own words and realizing how much of themselves they put into the characters and the story, that made this one even more powerful and special then it would have been with a different narrator. You could hear his passion for the story in each word he spoke. And those words? They were beautiful and honest. The only drawback of reading this one in audiobook format is that there's no way to highlight the beautiful passages... and there were a lot of them. Had I read this in eBook format, I'd have highlighted half the book. I had to go seek out quotes on Goodreads.
“...he hopes that maybe it'll make people a little less scared of two boys kissing than they were before, and a little more welcoming to the idea that all people are, in fact, born equal, no matter who they kiss or screw, no matter what dreams they have or love they give.”
Two Boys Kissing is inspired by a true story. Many of them, actually. While it's true the book mostly centers around Harry and Craig's endeavor to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss, there are several other characters whose stories are every bit as important to this book. Harry and Craig's bold gesture has a huge impact on these other characters who are attempting to navigate tricky situations on their own.
“Love is so painful, how could you ever wish it on anybody? And love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way?”
This book was gorgeous and thought-provoking. I know it will stick with me for a very, very long time. It moved me to tears, made me appreciate the struggle of my gay friends, and most of all, made me realize that while progress has undeniably been made, there's still so much more left to achieve. I've recently read that some parents are petitioning schools to remove this book from their libraries. Now, I'm not going to get on my soapbox on this, but all I can say is that I hope that while the parents aren't open-minded enough to give this book a shot, that the school officials will take a few hours and read this beautiful, powerful book and realize taking it out of libraries would do more harm than good, by far.
“You can give words, but you can't take them. And when words are given, that is when they are shared. We remember what that was like. Words so real they were almost tangible. There are conversations you remember, for certain. But more than that, there is the sensation of conversation. You will remember that, even when the precise words begin to blur.”
I wasn't sure how the Greek Chorus of gay men would work in this book. It took a little bit of time for me to fully embrace it, but it wasn't long before it became one of my favorite things about this book. Their voices were so honest and it was incredibly moving listening to their thoughts on the events taking place in current day, as compared to their struggles. I got entirely wrapped up in each individual character's story, though I don't think any moved me more than Cooper's. His voice – and the rest of the voices – were so authentic and believable. I've listened to friends talk about some of the same struggles and I think that's what made this book so personal to me.
"We know that some of you are still scared. We know that some of you are still silent. Just because it's better now doesn't mean that it's always good.”
There's not one thing I would change about this book, except to maybe make it longer. The world needs more books like this, more writers like David Levithan. This was an emotional and hopeful read. We've come a long way, but there's still so much further to come.
“We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust. We make more than dust. That's all we ask of you. Make more than dust.”
The story revolves around Harry and Craig's attempt to break the record for the longest continuous kiss. Throughout their journey, we get to hear the stories of Tariq, who is Harry and Craig's friend and the stories of Neil & Peter, Avery & Ryan and Cooper, who don't know them at all.
There is no way I can convey everything this book is. All I can say is that I am glad I read it. I loved it and I honestly feel that it's a book that everybody should experience for themselves.
Most recent customer reviews
I listened to the audiobook, which is read by the author, and I don't think I really loved him as a narrator.Read more
I find it infuriating that books that have nothing but love to tell are...Read more