Two Boys Kissing
Publication date: August 27, 2013
Knopf Books for Young Readers, Audible Audiobook, 6 hours and 15 minutes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
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.
“The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us had a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it. What we hoped, and what we found, was that the second sentence of the truth is always easier than the first, and the third sentence is even easier than that. Suddenly you are speaking the truth in paragraphs, in pages. The fear, the nervousness, is still there, but it is joined by a new confidence. All along, you’ve used the first sentence as a lock. But now you find that it’s the key.”
Every now and then I read a book that I just know will stick with me forever. When I find one of these special books, I want every person I know – and even ones I don’t – to read it. That was definitely the case with Two Boys Kissing. This book was truly something special and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
“If you let the world in, you open yourself up to the world. Even if the world doesn’t know that you’re there.”
I read the audiobook version, which I was pleasantly surprised to find was narrated by the author himself. The book itself was powerful, but having the author read his own words made it that much more so. There’s something about listening to an author reading their own words and realizing how much of themselves they put into the characters and the story, that made this one even more powerful and special then it would have been with a different narrator. You could hear his passion for the story in each word he spoke. And those words? They were beautiful and honest. The only drawback of reading this one in audiobook format is that there’s no way to highlight the beautiful passages… and there were a lot of them. Had I read this in eBook format, I’d have highlighted half the book. I had to go seek out quotes on Goodreads.
“…he hopes that maybe it’ll make people a little less scared of two boys kissing than they were before, and a little more welcoming to the idea that all people are, in fact, born equal, no matter who they kiss or screw, no matter what dreams they have or love they give.”
Two Boys Kissing is inspired by a true story. Many of them, actually. While it’s true the book mostly centers around Harry and Craig’s endeavor to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss, there are several other characters whose stories are every bit as important to this book. Harry and Craig’s bold gesture has a huge impact on these other characters who are attempting to navigate tricky situations on their own.
“Love is so painful, how could you ever wish it on anybody? And love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way?”
This book was gorgeous and thought-provoking. I know it will stick with me for a very, very long time. It moved me to tears, made me appreciate the struggle of my gay friends, and most of all, made me realize that while progress has undeniably been made, there’s still so much more left to achieve. I’ve recently read that some parents are petitioning schools to remove this book from their libraries. Now, I’m not going to get on my soapbox on this, but all I can say is that I hope that while the parents aren’t open-minded enough to give this book a shot, that the school officials will take a few hours and read this beautiful, powerful book and realize taking it out of libraries would do more harm than good, by far.
“You can give words, but you can’t take them. And when words are given, that is when they are shared. We remember what that was like. Words so real they were almost tangible. There are conversations you remember, for certain. But more than that, there is the sensation of conversation. You will remember that, even when the precise words begin to blur.”
I wasn’t sure how the Greek Chorus of gay men would work in this book. It took a little bit of time for me to fully embrace it, but it wasn’t long before it became one of my favorite things about this book. Their voices were so honest and it was incredibly moving listening to their thoughts on the events taking place in current day, as compared to their struggles. I got entirely wrapped up in each individual character’s story, though I don’t think any moved me more than Cooper’s. His voice – and the rest of the voices – were so authentic and believable. I’ve listened to friends talk about some of the same struggles and I think that’s what made this book so personal to me.
“We know that some of you are still scared. We know that some of you are still silent. Just because it’s better now doesn’t mean that it’s always good.”
There’s not one thing I would change about this book, except to maybe make it longer. The world needs more books like this, more writers like David Levithan. This was an emotional and hopeful read. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still so much further to come.
“We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust. We make more than dust. That’s all we ask of you. Make more than dust.”