Two Boys Kissing is my second solo book written by David Levithan. I first read Every Day last October and I was blown away by the unique writing style and profound storyline. I mentioned that David Levithan’s writing can take a little getting used to because it’s extremely ‘profound, deep and meaningful’. It’s the same for Two Boys Kissing, so it did take me half the book to become completely absorbed in the story and for me to stop getting distracted by rhetorical devices that David Levithan uses. It’s certainly not a complaint, I’m just not used to it. It’s very ‘literary’, I should say. I tend to not have to think about literary technique and instead just take it for granted. But David Levithan’s work makes you really think about what is being said and how, so it’s a very different reading experience and one that is quite rewarding.
Two Boys Kissing is narrated by a generation of gay men who died from AIDS, who look upon the teenagers who are struggling with the same conflicts that they had to go through as teenagers, but in a very different time. It’s a distinct voice and a compelling way of telling a story that ‘hits home’ and puts Two Boys Kissing into context. And, although it shouldn’t need to be explained, makes us realise even more why these issues are important to talk about and publish Two Boys Kissing is inspired by college students Matty Daley and Bobby Cancielo, who kissed for thirty-two hours to break the Guinness World Record for longest continuous kiss, although the details of Two Boys Kissing is not based on their story.
Craig and Harry are no longer a couple, but they’re determined to support each other in their record-breaking attempt – and attempt to take stand – after a boy they know, Tariq, is beaten up by a homophobic gang. But Two Boys Kissing doesn’t just focus on these two boys, but the wider LGBT community and concerns, such as Avery, who is a boy born in a girl’s body and Cooper, whose parents refuse to accept him, nearly pushing him over the edge. In Two Boys Kissing, each character’s story is powerful and troubling, but delicately tackled. David Levithan does not generalise what it is like to be a boy who is gay, but shows us how much of a concern it is that young people today, in all sorts of situations, still cannot be accepted for who they are and who they choose to love. We have come far – during David Levithan’s Every Day event, where he also read a passage from Two Boys Kissing, he said he wouldn’t have been able to write it ten years ago – but we’ve not come far enough.
It should, I hope, be obvious why Two Boys Kissing is needed, for those who cannot accept that some people are gay and for the gay teenagers – and adults – who need to know it’s okay. It’s one of the first LGBT novels that I’ve read, I’m sorry to say, and the whole way through I couldn’t help but feel like it’s a very special story that other people need to read. I thoroughly enjoyed each characters’ story, however painful and difficult, and became invested in their future – I wanted to find out where they ended up. I also thought it was interesting to see the reactions from other people – the secondary characters – from those who were supportive and those not so much. I know that some people might find Two Boys Kissing preachy, but it’s something that I think people ought to be preachy about, rather than ignoring it or accepting society as it is, and accepting that other people might not feel the same way. It isn’t acceptable.
I said I wasn’t going to read Boy Meets Boy next when I reviewed Every Day, and I didn’t get round to it, but I definitely want to even more now!
Published: 21st August 2013 (US) 27th March 2014 (UK)
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (US) Electric Monkey (UK)