Two Boys Kissing

David Levithan. Knopf, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-307-93190-0
It’s a different world for teenagers coming of age and coming out now, compared to when Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy was published 10 years ago. He speaks directly to this new generation in this novel, which instantly claims its place in the canon of gay literature. As the title suggests, a kiss plays a central part: it takes place on the lawn of a high school where two former boyfriends try to set a world record for the longest kiss. As the title also suggests, this one’s for the boys. Although varyingly supportive friends and family are part of the story, Levithan focuses on the gay male community. Craig and Henry, the two participating in the kiss, are no longer dating, throwing an element of uncertainty into an act that’s romantic, political, and personal. Neil and Peter have been dating for a year and are beginning to wonder what’s next. Avery, “born a boy that the rest of the world saw as a girl,” and Ryan are caught up in the dizzying excitement of meeting someone new. And Cooper is rapidly losing himself into a digital oblivion. But as much as this story is about these teenagers, it’s also about their forebears. Levithan builds a bridge between today’s young gay men and those who have come (and gone) before them through an audacious choice of narrator: the collective generation of gay men lost to AIDS. This chorus of voices holds court on body image (“When we were healthy we were ignorant. We could never be content in our own skin”), family (both biological and found), hookup apps, dancing, the reality of watching loved ones die, and the fleeting preciousness of life. The narrators are positioned as self-described “shadow uncles” and “angel godfathers,” but Levithan doesn’t canonize them. “The minute you stop talking about individuals and start talking about a group, your judgment has a flaw in it,” they observe when negative reactions to the boys’ kiss mount as it gains widespread attention. “We made this mistake often enough.” There are no chapters; the story moves among the characters’ experiences and the narrators’ commentary, proceeding ever forward in the way that life does. As Craig and Henry’s kiss approaches record-setting territory, and Cooper approaches becoming a statistic, the novel builds into something triumphant. Many will read the final pages with their hearts in their throats. Levithan makes it clear that loving and living are as imperfect as those who practice them, but no less precious for their flaws. A landmark achievement from a writer and editor who has helped create, in literature, a haven for queer youth. Ages 12–up. Agent: Bill Clegg, William Morris Endeavor. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/03/2013
Release date: 08/27/2013
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FORMATS
Compact Disc - 978-0-8041-2373-0
Compact Disc - 5 pages - 978-0-8041-2371-6
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-307-93191-7
Book - 978-1-4676-5972-7
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-307-97564-5
Open Ebook - 66 pages - 978-1-299-77686-9
Library Binding - 208 pages - 978-0-375-97112-9
Hardcover - 243 pages - 978-1-4052-6443-3
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