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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan [Review]

Written by: David Levithan.
Published by: Random House.
Format: Hardback.
Released: 27th September 2013.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "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."

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I've been very excited and also very anxious to read Two Boys Kissing for quite a while now. The premise sounds amazing, and correct me if I am wrong but this is the first time there have been, well... two boys kissing on a book cover for YA literature? And for me that marks something massive, something so exciting and liberating: acceptance. And I like that a lot! But I have also been anxious because I really didn't like Levithan's début novel which also featured young gay characters, Boy Meets Boy. In fact, I disliked it a lot. And I mean a lot. I just couldn't gel with it. The characters. The style. The stereotypical nature of the characters that made me a little scared because I wasn't like them.

But I have to be honest that all those feelings of anxiety disappeared as soon as I started to read the book. The narrative is very strange to start with. It's written in a Greek chorus, as the synopsis confirms, and it's all the men who have died from AIDs over the years, looking down on our generation, commenting on how free we are compared to how they had to live their lives as young gay men and so on. It did take a good fifty pages for me to really get into the narrative and I did feel at the start as if it was going to annoy me, but then for some reason it just clicked and it makes the book all the more poignant and thoughtful. 

We meet a host of characters in Two Boys Kissing covering the LGBT spectrum. This is something that I think the narrative lends itself to very well. We get to see all views, that of the narrators and the characters themselves - it kind of gives the characters a more 3D feel and I liked this. There are Ryan and Avery who meet for the first time and all is not as it seems at first. There's Neil and Peter who are both in an established relationship. There's Cooper who takes advantage of the digital age to become whoever he wants to be, talking to men all across the country in a way he'd never speak to them if they were face to face, he's struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and his parents finding out. And then there are Craig and Harry, the central characters the... well... the two boys kissing. They used to go out but don't any more but they want to set a world record and raise awareness for the gay community so decide to go for it.

All of the characters have different aspects to them that I feel, personally, could relate to anyone. I saw myself in Cooper, sometimes hating the fact that I'm gay and just wishing that I wasn't, scared of the whole coming out process and consequences. And then I'd find myself relating to Ryan and Avery, in the whole attraction bubble that comes when you first see a guy you like. And so on. There are so many parts to this novel although it is only a 200 page read, it sure does pack a punch.

And the quotes! I've never been one for quoting really. I get quotes and I sometimes read something and think wow... that's amazing! but with Two Boys Kissing there are so many bits that I want to remember, that I want in a frame hanging on my wall, that I want to scribble in notebooks and just think about for years to come. One that really stood out to me and felt quite powerful whilst I was reading it was:

"This is the power of a kiss: It does not have the power to kill you. But it has the power to bring you to life."

Sigh. It just made me feel all gooey inside and I just loved that sentence.

Two Boys Kissing is, I feel, a very important book. We're at a crossroads when it comes to equality and the scales are tipping in the right direction. For me the book highlights the fact that we are normal people, just like everyone else and it's very thought provoking. I think that every LGBT teen or young adult or even adult should read this book. If you're struggling to come to terms with things - kind of like myself - or if you just want to get a bit of perspective you should read it. But I also think that straight teens, young adults and so on should read it too. It's very easy for people to write off gay people and think they know them before they actually do. Just the word gay brings up an idea of a person and it's wrong. A person shouldn't be judged upon their sexuality, just as they shouldn't their colour, size or anything else for that matter - just the one thing that counts, their personality. That's what it's all about and Two Boys Kissing showcases that brilliantly.

I cannot express how thankful I am to David Levithan for this book. It has genuinely helped me and come at a time I needed it most. I no longer feel so much like an alien and it was an entertaining, addictive and downright emotional read to boot. I love it and I plan to re-read it again, and again, and again.

At the moment you can't get the book in the UK. It is being published over here, by Egmont UK, but not until next June, so if you cannot wait that long just do what I did... BOOK DEPO!

1 comment:

  1. This is honestly one of the best books I've read in some time. Thank you, David Levithan, for this experience. I feel changed for the better.

    Rowena
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