Two Boys Kissing

Levithan, David. 2013. Two Boys Kissing. New York: Alfred A Knopf.

Book cover, showing a closeup of two white adolescent boys kissing, with the title in blue across the image.

In this YA novel by the prolific David Levithan, we follow three couples and one individual through a few days of their lives. Peter and Neil have been dating for a year and their relationship is comfortable, though both sometimes feel unsatisfied. Avery and Ryan just met at gay prom and are experiencing their first few sweet dates. Cooper is deeply closeted and spends most of his time on gay hookup apps, lying about himself and seeking some sort of fix to his loneliness. And Harry and Craig are former boyfriends who are trying to break the Guinness World Record for longest continuous kiss.

These seven characters have various ambitions and histories and tender inner lives. Their stories weave around each other throughout the book. They don’t all know each other, but they are connected through the shared experience of being young and gay. When Harry and Craig are partway through their historic kiss, enough news outlets are covering it that the others become aware of them and a shared feeling of excitement begins to permeate the book. In fact, the record breaking kiss (32 hours, 12 minutes, and 10 seconds!) is based on the true story of Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello in 2010.

I’m not exactly sure how I felt about this book. The individual plotlines for each character were interesting, and I was definitely rooting for Harry and Craig, but I found the narrative style somewhat odd. The narrators were gay men who had died in the AIDS epidemic, which was not really explained, and seemed confusing for me. It was as if there were ghosts constantly following the characters around and opining about their lives.

Having said that, I know from talking to public librarians that this book circulates very well and seems quite popular, so evidently my personal feelings are not widespread. Two Boys Kissing was a 2014 Stonewall Honor Book and was named to the 2013 National Book Award Longlist. Check it out and form your own opinions!

About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, and Legend Tripper
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