Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Released August 27, 2013.
Based on true events, this is the story of Henry and Craig, who attempt to set the World Record for kissing the longest. That means they have to kiss for over 32 hours without a break, no pee breaks, no drink breaks, no sleep and no food. They start it as a way to support their friend who had been attacked for being gay, but it quickly becomes so much more than that. It is a kiss felt around the world. It’s a kiss that speaks to other gay boys, boys who are in their own relationships, those just starting to meet one another, those born into the wrong bodies, those exploring the dark side of the Internet, and others who are just coming out. The entire book is narrated by the voices of gay men who died in the AIDS epidemic, a generation of gay men who watch the violence, the continued anguish, but also the hope, the progress and the open joy of love.
This book is quite simply a masterpiece. The pairing of the fresh young love of these gay teens against the wisdom of those who fault earlier battles is brilliant. It places the entire book into a context that could otherwise be lost. It is through those many narrators that the truth is laid bare in luminous poetic sentences like “He has no idea how beautiful he is as he walks up that path and rings that doorbell. He has no idea how beautiful the ordinary becomes once it disappears.” I highlighted so many sentences like that, bursts of beautiful insight scattered across the sky of the book. Levithan is at his best here.
Levithan’s pairing of the modern with the perspective of those dead also makes sure that the book has a certain focus on death and dying. He plays with both, contrasting it with the beauty of the every day, the wonder of perfect moments that are perfect only because they are momentary. The book reads as one of those crystalline moments caught and tangible. Levithan also offers gay characters who are in complicated relationships, adding to the depth of the narrative even further. None of these teens are stereotypes, they are all deeply human, wonderfully so.
Beautifully written with strong characters and a brilliant concept, this book is breathtaking, just like a great kiss should be. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from e-galley courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.