Saturday, October 19, 2013
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
These days I tend to leave books for a few days before I review them. I've learned that I like to sit on my thoughts for a few days before writing up a review. I want to give you my raw thoughts on Two Boys Kissing, though. I just closed it's last pages and it gave me one of the more emotional reactions I've ever had to a book and I don't quite know how to even put into words how perfect of a job Levithan did with this book. The book is simply a thing of beauty with so much beauty and pain and happiness and truth in each line and it's a true treasure. I swear Levithan just tops each novel of his with the next when it just doesn't seem possible.
When I first heard the title of this book months ago, I had a feeling it was to be inspired by Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello's record breaking kiss in 2010 and I was correct. In September of 2010, Matty and Bobby kissed for over 32 hours, setting the world record for longest kiss and what started out as a personal goal turned into something much more powerful. I remember that kiss. It's one of the reasons this book was so powerful to me. They broadcasted their kiss live on the internet and I checked in on them throughout their 32 hours and was glued to my computer screen as they succeeded in their goal and unlocked their lips with tears in their eyes.
I was out to exactly one person at the time of that kiss. And that kiss and everything that it represented, the beauty that was behind it was what gave me the courage at 29 years old to finally be ok with who I was and shortly after that I celebrated who I was. It still took me over a year before I would come out to (some of) my family, but that was a life changing night for me seeing the beauty, the acceptance, the love, the passion that they shared and that the entire world shared watching them.
Levithan captures that same feeling and then some with this amazing treasure of a novel. As the reader, we're onlookers into the lives of several of today's teens through the eyes of a chorus of a past generation of gay men. A generation that didn't have technology, that weren't generally accepted in the public eye, a generation that couldn't hold hands, much less kiss in public places, a generation who's lives were often threatened if others were to know they were gay, a generation who's lives were often threatened and lost by a new disease called AIDS.
We look upon Harry and Craig, two boys kissing to set the world record. They're a former couple but are no longer together, yet they remain close and they're now standing on the lawn of their high school trying to break the record of longest kiss for many reasons. Harry's parents stand with them in support and pride while Craig's parents are unaware that their son is gay. A crowd is growing as they kiss. Some to support, some to protest.
As Harry and Craig kiss, Ryan and Avery are meeting for the first time at a gay prom. Ryan wants nothing more than to get out of the town that he's in while Avery wants nothing more than to just be accepted. Avery was born in a girl's body but he's had the full support from birth of his parents to become the boy that he's always been and there's a spark igniting between Ryan and Avery.
Peter and Neil are adorable. I loved them so much. They're a couple who have been a couple for awhile and while Peter's family openly accept him for who he is and love Neil as their own as well, Neil's family just doesn't talk about things. But the two have a solid relationship and Levithan shows the beauty of the imperfections of any relationship through theirs.
And then there is Cooper, a teen who has isolated himself by only being open with who he truly is through websites that are mainly "hook-up" sites and everything falls apart when his parents discover this. His parents are less than happy with who he was born as and everything could unravel for him.
It sounds like too many story lines going on at once, I know....but I assure you it is not. Levithan weaves a web of perfection with his writing, holding all of these boys' stories together with the juxtaposition of what was and what is, what we can learn from the past, what we can look forward to in the future. What we regret, what we hold onto, what motivates us, what disturbs us, what makes us pine for more.
This is one to keep a box of tissues with you while you're reading it. And the funny thing is, it's not because it's necessarily a sad book or an overly happy book. The tears come because of the truths of the book and the beautiful way in which they're presented....the voice in which they're told from. It's one that I'll hold dear to me for sure.