Two Boys Kissing follows seven young gay boys, who are all at different stages of discovery in their young lives, finding new love and love they thought was lost, finding themselves and navigating young gay life. A life that is vastly different from that of the narrators’, a “Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS”.
The main arc of the story follows Harry and Craig on their quest to beat the record for the longest kiss in the name of their friend who was assaulted because of his sexual orientation. Ryan and Avery, blue and pink haired boys discovering each other for the first time at a gay prom. Peter and Neil, a couple who falls asleep looking at each other through a webcam and cooper who is trying to navigate his perceived empty life as best he can.
Levithan has presented a unique and fresh take on the genre, casting light on those that were lost to a devastating illness and the hardships they had to face in coming out and being who they are in contrast to the (in some cases) more open-mindedness of society towards these young men today.
It isn’t however all sunshine and PFLAG banners waving. The novel moves through the several protagonists, from the once couple Harry and Craig, and the central focus of the book, that which draws all other stories around them, who attempts to steal the record for the longest kiss, openly and proud even in the face of homophobia and pelted eggs to the floundering boy just rejected by his father, a boy who feels devastatingly isolated and hopeless. Cooper isn’t the largest part of the novel, but his story is the loudest in my eyes. I found the raw truth of his feelings and in his need to feel anything, even if it comes from verbally assaulting other gay men, incredibly heartbreaking.
The omniscient narrator is inspired and written in a way that I have never seen before, however the shift in perspective between the seven protagonists can become a little dicey and muddled in some places, at times I found it difficult to distinguish one boy from the other, as we never really get deep enough for them all to have their own unique presence within the book.
The narration shifts between first, second and third person, which again is something I have never come across. It has the potential to be disastrous; Levithan however, makes it undeniably powerful.
The only issue, for some including myself, with this kind of narration is the use of ‘we’ and ‘you’ as if the novel is speaking directly to ‘you’; a young gay man. this is the desired effect, however if you are not in fact a young gay man, like myself, it can be very disconnecting, the opposite of what it is intended and employed to do.
In a way this novel has one specific demographic targeted as its one and only audience because of this, however I found it only mildly distracting. Something you can easily move past and not have it affect the impact of the story.
Two Boys Kissing should be compulsory for all young adults to experience. It is an extremely important book with an even more important message. Tolerance. Hope. Life.
An amazing read.