Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Kissing
By David Levithan
Expected publication August 27, 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Harry and Craig used to be boyfriends, but that's not what's important right now. What's important is that they are going to kiss. They are going to kiss for over 32 hours, in an attempt to set a world record and say something to the world.

It's hard to actually give an accurate summary of this book because, while it is about Harry and Craig and their kiss, it is also about so much more. I think I've read nearly all of Levithan's books and, though I haven't loved them all equally, I appreciate what he does as a writer. When I heard about his newest novel, it was a no-brainer for me to request an e-galley. Levithan continually blows me away with his capabilities - not only did he publish an acclaimed novel last year, he collaborated on another title earlier this year, AND THAT'S NOT EVEN HIS DAY JOB. Levithan is also an editor at Scholastic, for some of the biggest names and series around. How does this man have time to do it all, and so successfully?

Regardless of how impressed I am with his time management skills, I also appreciate his books for what they do. Levithan writes lovely GLBT-focused novels that show gay teens they are okay. The cover of this is history-making, I believe, with its full-on image of, well, two boys kissing. I have conflicted feelings about the cover (I mean, yay! Two boys kissing, proudly on the cover! but also, worries that some teens who need to read this book will be unable or unsafe to be seen with it), but we're not really here to talk about the cover.

How do I feel about the book? I really liked it. Though I had issues with Levithan's last solo effort and the way it was told, I really enjoyed the narrative style he employs here. As I mentioned before, this is not just the story of Harry and Craig's kiss. This is the story of Harry and Craig - and Ryan and Avery and Cooper and Tariq and Neil and Peter. It is also the story of all the gay men who lost their lives to AIDS. These men form a chorus that narrates the stories of the others. For me, it was a powerful choice that I think worked beautifully to highlight the emotional and sociopolitical story being told here. I think it is important that we be reminded of that generation of men and the awful things they had to endure - not just the disease itself, but the social climate and the ignorance of political leaders and much more.

And I love that Levithan has chosen to tell a bigger story than that of just Harry and Craig and their kiss. I loved hearing the stories of the other gay teens - each experience different and unique and authentic. Each of these stories will ring true for different readers and this is part of the reason why I think this book is a fantastic and important read for all gay teens.

But another reason why I think this book is so good is because of Levithan's skills as a writer. This book is beautifully written - simple and haunting at times, joyful and lush at others. Levithan is an author who I feel chooses each word so carefully and precisely in order to extract the most emotion and meaning out of every sentence. It is overwhelming and wonderful to behold.

Ultimately, I think this is a truly outstanding novel, particularly important for gay teens. Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

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