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.
“You can’t know what it is like for us now — you will always be one step behind. Be thankful for that.
You can’t know what it was like for us then — you will always be one step ahead. Be thankful for that, too.”
Two Boys Kissing is narrated in a completely unique fashion: instead of shifting perspectives, as I expected, our narrator is a Greek Chorus of gay men who have lost their lives to AIDS. At first it was slightly disconcerting to have an omnipresent group of narrators, however it certainly wouldn’t have been as poignant and touching of a read without their inclusive “we.” As the Greek Chorus watches over the eight teen characters, two things are made very apparent: the universality of being in love, and just how far society has progressed in terms of accepting homosexuality. Sure, this progress isn’t complete, but considering the marvel that these men have about the fact that two boys kissing in front of the high school is largely received in a positive manner, it isn’t hard to imagine complete acceptance in the near future.
I wasn’t quite as connected to the eight teenage boys that the Chorus was watching over, however I still found myself rooting for them. Two boys are in the early stages of a potential relationship, with one partway through the transition from female to male. There’s a healthy relationship between two of the boys, complete with acceptance from both sets of parents. One boy is only out to strangers he has met on chat sites, and fears that he is alone and unloved. Another was assaulted because of his sexual orientation. And, finally, we have the two boys who are trying to break the world record for the longest kiss. Despite this wide range of circumstances, these boys all had several commonalities: they were struggling with acceptance, love, approval, and coming out – both to their families and themselves. Their stories felt authentic and real, so it was no surprise to find out that they are: both in the people that Levithan drew inspiration from, and many others that struggle with these issues – whether they’re gay or straight, a teenager or an adult.
Overall, Two Boys Kissing is beautifully written, captivating, and thought provoking – all of which I’ve come to expect from David Levithan’s works. More than that, though, it is important, and deserves to be read by absolutely everyone.