Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book at ALA Annual 2014.
“The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us had a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it. What we hoped, and what we found, was that the second sentence of the truth is always easier than the first, and the third sentence is even easier than that. Suddenly you are speaking the truth in paragraphs, in pages. The fear, the nervousness, is still there, but it is joined by a new confidence. All along, you’ve used the first sentence as a lock. But now you find that it’s the key.”
Harry and Craig aren’t a couple anymore. Now they’re just friends, though Craig still hopes for more. Together they’re going to try to break the world record for longest kiss. Harry’s parents know he’s gay, but Craig’s parents will probably find out thanks to the 32 hour marathon kiss. Their very public statement sends ripples through their conservative community, touching Neil and Peter, a young gay couple who have been together for a year, and Avery and Ryan, who have only just met at the gay prom in a nearby town. Soon Harry and Craig are an internet sensation, but their statement about the progress of gay rights doesn’t reach Cooper, an alienated gay boy who drowns his fear and self-loathing in anonymous sexting and internet chats as he increasingly loses hope for a better life.
Narrated by the collective “we” of the previous generation of gay men who died during the AIDS epidemic, speaking to the younger generation of gay youth who were left with so few mentors, Levithan’s narrative conceit is designed to create a sense of the legacy of the AIDS epidemic on the gay community and the progress that has been made in the fight for gay rights. While this stylistic choice gives the “shadow uncles” and “angel godfathers” the chance to be heard, it also serves to hamper the narrative in some ways, creating a sense of distance from the characters in the present. Despite this narrative weakness, this is a tremendously important book for LGBT youth, who need stories that reach beyond coming out, and that depict the diversity of the gay community. Two Boys Kissing includes Hispanic, African- and Korean-American gay characters, and a trans gay boy who has a double burden to carry in learning to navigate the world. Their families come in various degrees of tolerance and support, as does their own self-acceptance.
There are no chapters to break up Two Boys Kissing, so that this relatively short novel becomes one long, intense read that mirrors the marathon kiss Harry and Craig are engaged in. Levithan shifts constantly through the diverse cast of characters, never settling into one point of view for long. There are many moving and well-written passages that show that Levithan’s unusual narrative style may have been a risk worth taking, but one that may or may not appeal to the individual reader.
You might also like Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin.