Review Blog

Sep 20 2013

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

cover image

Text Publishing 2013. ISBN 9781922147486.
(Age: 15+) LGTB Themes, identity, loss and bullying.
David Levithan's books have always found new ways to engage readers with the plight of the LGTB community, particularly its young adult members. His first, Boy meets boy, 2003 was a celebration of boys who refused to be defined by society's very 'straight' values. It was funny, angsty, and ridiculously tolerant. In interviews leading up to the release of Two boys kissing, Levithan claimed it's a celebration of the 10 year anniversary of Boy meets boy, and that he is trying to show how life really is for young queer people today.
Two boys kissing is the story of Craig and Henry who are trying to break the Guinness Book of World Record's record for the longest kiss. This isn't just a chance to find notoriety, it's a call for support for their friend Tariq. Along the way we also meet two other couples: Peter and Neil, and Avery and Ryan, one established and one just starting out. And then there's Cooper - alone, lonely, and empty.
The narration by a chorus of dead men, lost to the world primarily because of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s, adds richness and depth, and of course sadness to the stories of these young men defining themselves to their family and friends and lovers. This narration will confuse some people, and alienate others; I can see that. The 'We' is repetitive and ambiguous. This Greek-style of chorus is also completely ineffectual as they are unable to help our lads navigate anger, frustration, and despair. They can only observe, comment on, and compare their lives to these lives, but it works for me. Their insights are tender and wistful, their regrets are many and varied, and their wishes are the same as ours: That young people find their crowd, so they can find themselves, so they can live, and love and learn. Oh, it's all so wonderful.
Levithan is controlled and contextual when it comes to explicit sex. He writes for a YA audience so the boys are largely innocent and playful. There is one (poor) attempt at a seduction, and it is crucial for the development of Cooper's character and mindset. When Cooper is rejected, his already spiralling life disintegrates completely, and it is here that Levithan deviates from his usual positive and rose-coloured depiction of what it means to be gay. Although Cooper's story saddened me greatly, it is realistic: There are many teenagers who don't have supportive families, who don't have close friends they can call on, who feel like they are worthless, and who struggle to find a reason to keep going.
This novel is also controlled. It is only 196 pages, yet it overflows with emotion and wisdom. Every review I write about a David Levithan book always has a variation of this sentence: I love the way this man writes.
He isn't for everyone, but he speaks to me. I love the way this man writes.
Trisha Buckley

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