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Two Boys Kissing Paperback – May 12, 2015
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
“There are more than two boys kissing in this book, and every one of them will reach your heart. You have to read this.”
- Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park
- Frank Bruni, The New York Times
Entertainment Weekly, August 21, 2013:
"Author David Levithan's poignant novel follows the stories of gay teens joined through an unconventional protest. A-"
The Washington Post, August 20, 2013:
"Over the years, Levithan has consistently explored new creative territory...'Two Boys Kissing' reveals his command of an intriguing, complex narrative with an unusual point of view: the first-person plural. This 'we' is the combined voice of men who died during the AIDS pandemic several decades ago. As the boys’ stories become more closely entwined and connect in a satisfying finale, the reflections of these 'shadow uncles' lend a quality of retrospection that is rare (and refreshing) in YA literature."
The Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2013:
"Open, frank and ultimately optimistic."
The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy, October 24, 2013:
"'Two Boys Kissing’ couldn’t have arrived at a more timely moment, just months after the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. The shift in society’s attitudes towards the LGBT community has long been embraced by many in the young adult crowd. Levithan seems to intuitively understand this generation—and his new book allows him to bring their particular struggles and joys to life."
Newsday, August 21, 2013:
"We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, goes an oft-paraphrased line. David Levithan gives vivid voice to it in his latest YA novel, 'Two Boys Kissing'.
BookPage, August 28, 2013:
"Levithan’s powerful, multifaceted novel explores just how far things have come for many gay teens—and how far things still need to go."
Starred Review, The Bulletin, September 2013:
"Both celebratory and elegiac… There’s much to discuss here about identity, about social media, about community—and it would be a particularly stellar choice for a multi-generational LGTBQ-focused book club.”
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 3, 2013:
"A landmark achievement from a writer and editor who has helped create, in literature, a haven for queer youth."
"No one does heart-pulling emotion like Levithan, and this book, coming a decade after his groundbreaking debut, 'Boy Meets Boy,' has special resonance."
- Gayle Forman, author of Just One Day and Just One Year, for Bookish.com
"Brilliant, moving, important, and wise."
- Jennifer E. Smith, author of This Is What Happy Looks Like and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
WAMC Northeast Public Radio, September 19, 2013:
"Two Boys Kissing will make you laugh and cry, but best of all, it will make you relive those perfect innocuous moments of finding and then being with your first love."
Romantic Times Book Review, September 2013:
"Thought provoking, poignant and beautifully written, above all this is an unbelievably important book for anyone who has struggled with identity, love and loss. The omniscient narration is incredibly moving and appreciative of the fragility of life. A groundbreaking addition to the LGBT genre and community."
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2013:
"The novel has genuine moments of insight and wisdom...Inspiring."
Hypable.com, August 23, 2013:
"Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan takes the stories of all these boys and spins them into an interconnecting web that will leave you emotionally exhausted and absolutely thrilled to have read something so beautiful and unique...Will educate, entertain and move you."
Bookish.com, May 6, 2013:
"Levithan takes contemporary to a whole new space with this novel, finding new ground in storytelling around important issues that directly affect teens today."
Booklist, August 1, 2013:
"Levithan leans intensely into this work...There’s little doubt that this title, with its weight, significance, and literary quality, will find its way into LGBTQ and wider cannons. Stock up."
School Library Journal, September 2013:
"The story will engage readers, both female and male."
"The high level of imaginative and intuitive empathy that is apparent in all of his works is especially strong here—as not only are his protagonists fully realized, but so are the voices of the collective narration, whose experiences are as varied as the characters on the page... It is the best book I have read this year."
- Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Books Inc.
"Everyone needs to read this, not just YA. How perfectly David puts the past, present and future into one small novel. Now, as soon as my eyes stop watering and the goose bumps on my arms go away, I can continue my day."
- Carolyn Anbar, Watchung Booksellers
"Levithan's choice of narrator was inspiring and heartbreaking. Giving a voice to that generation and exposing young kids to those voices, blew me away...Two Boys Kissing feels like a very important book, something I think everyone should read and something that's touched me in a way no YA has in a really long time."
- John Kwiatkowski, Murder by the Book
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
DAVID LEVITHAN is a children’s book editor in New York City and the author of several books for young adults, including Boy Meets Boy, Love Is the Higher Law, and Every Day. He coauthored Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green, and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, and Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List with Rachel Cohn.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
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The emotions of the characters are well-captured and seem genuine. Since the plot, what little there is of it, is so brief, basically the only glimpse into these boys is through their emotional states. If asked to describe most of the characters, I couldn't. There's a smattering of superficial details, but, as the chorus reminds us, they could all basically just be one person describing different points of their adolescence. I don't read YA fiction, so maybe it's par for the course to have flat characters, barely any plot, and no denouement?
I wanted to like this story, but it feels like an attempt to be an emotional art piece with an explanatory essay superimposed and it doesn't work for me.
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.
Craig and Harry are planning a kiss. They’ve kissed before. They used to be boyfriends, before they’d agreed that it would be better if they were just friends. But this kiss was going to be different. Craig wanted to break the world record for longest kiss. He wanted to make a powerful and public statement and that meant standing with his lips touching Harry’s for at least 32 hours 12 minutes and 10 seconds, despite the fact that he may not be as over Harry as Harry is over him, and despite what anyone, including his parents (who don't even know he's gay), might think.
But this book is about more than just two boys kissing.
Peter and Neil are in a long term relationship; their kisses are different then the kisses Avery and Ryan, who just met, might get to have soon. Cooper is alone in his head and even the thought of kissing another boy doesn't make him feel less so. And all the boys who love other boys all around the world who may be kissing or dreaming about kissing right at this very moment...They are all right here too.
This book packed a lot of stories into a small space. It takes a snapshot of the highs and lows of being young and gay, and then another, and another...until spread out before you is an entire disjointed album of these snapshots. We get a glimpse of the surface: gay bashed, unrequited love, parents who disown, hopelessness, parents who accept, moments of perfect connection with another boy, a community that comes together to celebrate, a moment of grace… but it's hard to get deeper than the surface in a snapshot.
The narrator in this story is perhaps the most interesting thing about it, but if I'm being honest, it didn't really work for me and I found it a distraction. The narrator is a greek chorus of the previous generations of gay men who did not live long enough to be mentors to this next generation of boys, wiped out by the plague that came before, but watching over this next generation through the ether and sharing in their joys and pitfalls. The story then flows from scene to scene, inside various characters heads, and back into the hopes and dreams from the past, because the narrator exists outside of time and sees, feels, and knows, all these stories intimately. It is a daring and unusual storytelling choice, it creates these short fragmented pieces that weave into a greater tapestry, one that wants to encompass the whole of gay youth. It's ambitious….but, for me, it didn't feel totally successful. I just felt frustrated by the disjointed nature of the story, the bouncing around, the nattering on about what once was. I would have rather had a deeper understanding of one story than a surface only tapestry of many weaved together stories.
Do I recommend it? It's perfectly pleasant and harmless. It's a really quick read. (I read the whole book in an after dinner bath.) And It's certainly innovative storytelling. But ultimately it wasn't really my cup of tea. I put it firmly in the okay category. It's a read if you’re bored type of novel. But it isn't one I would necessarily recommend if you are seeking that “unable-to-put-down” level of entertainment.
It makes a decent showing on the project scales.
By its snapshot nature, it is able to round up some fair points on my Queer Counterculture Visibility Scale. I use this scale to help me weigh how much a book shines a light of representation on some less visible members of the community. We have a trans guy looking for love with another boy. We have a boy who is black and gay and going quite a few miles out of the way to find a safe place to be himself. There are out and in boys. White, black, and Asian boys. Hopeful and hopeless boys. And as many men echoing these stories from the past. It isn't a deep look at anyone, and of course the focus here is gay and not really the rest of the acronym, but it rounds up some decent representation. I'm going to weigh it in at a:
4 out of 5 stars
On my Genre Expectation Scale, I'm giving it a decent score as well. Despite the fact I found it personally unsuccessful, the narration choice sets this book apart from others in its genre and bucks genre expectations. So, here as well, I'm putting it at:
4 out of 5 stars
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