Plot: Craig and Harry are hoping to break the world record for longest kiss: over 32 hours without a break. In nearby towns other boys, like Neil and Patrick, kiss because they’re in love or kiss for the first time like Avery and Ryan. Others, like Cooper, are lost and alone and have given up. These are their stories and the stories of many like them.
This review is based on an ARC received at BEA 2013.
As much as I like Levithan’s books (Every Day was amazing!), it took me a little while to get into this one. It starts as a series of unconnected vignettes and I was more than 20 pages in (there are no chapters) until I started to pick out a coherent narrative. And even then, it is really 4 stories – 4 good stories, mind you – that are only connected by the narrators and the knowledge of Craig and Harry’s kissing record. The narrators are the other thing that took some getting used to…. and I’m still not sure I like them. The stories are told from the point of view of gay men of previous generations who were the victims of suicide, violence or AIDS. So yes, we have an indistinct mass of ghosts commenting, supporting, comparing things to how they were their time… a little creepy upon reflection. But I’m okay with creepy. What I liked less is that it made the novel feel like a lesson. Don’t get me wrong, most novels teach us things; I just prefer when they’re not so obvious about it.
Where Levithan succeeds is in the characters. Each of the 7 boys we follow (8 if we count Tariq, which I think we should) is different and fully fleshed out. They have motivations, problems and interests that are their own. Their relationships are touching and real, even when sometimes they don’t work out exactly as they’d like.
Was this my favorite book of the year? No. But it was a good one and it is one that we need. There is still not enough YA fiction with gay characters, let alone a wide variety of different gay characters. To quote Levithan: “Every time two boys kiss, it opens up the world a little bit more.” (p 62)
I have another new Levithan novel, Invisibility, on my to read pile. I’m hoping that one captures the magic that I found in Every Day.
Two Boys Kissing will be released in August 2013.