3 1/2 Star Reads, Book Review

Two Boys Kissing – David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Two Boys Kissing is a unique contemporary that blends the modern world that our main characters find themselves in with the struggles of their predecessors. Although I didn’t necessarily enjoy the expositions that the ‘gay men of the past’ added to the story through their monologues and voyeurism, I do understand how it lent a degree of weight to an otherwise fluffy contemporary novel. Like when they spoke about death or dying from AIDS as their horrifying realities, or just simple words of wisdom like “Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you have been given” (Levithan, 2013, p. 11).

We follow the lives of Henry and Craig, two boys who are attempting to bring awareness, break a Guinness World Record, and are still figuring things out post-breakup; Peter and Neil, a couple for over a year and who are still figuring things out; Avery and Ryan, brand new to dating each other and are just figuring things out; and Cooper, who is lost and not even sure how to start figuring things out. Have you noticed that they all have their struggles and having figured out their identities yet? This is definitely a coming of age novel, backed by the struggles and wisdom of those that came before them – or as the author wrote: “a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS”.

It was challenged because “she judged the book by its cover, which features, well, two boys kissing” and using the preview feature in Amazon searched for the words ‘kiss’ and ‘sex’ in the book which were featured 117 times. As this book is about breaking a record in kissing, no one should be surprised that the word should appear frequently in the book. In an interview with Malinda Lo as cited by Pekoll even Levithan (2017) responds to the challenge brilliantly “As for challenges and censors: the book is called Two Boys Kissing. It is about two boys kissing. Why hide that? What good would that do? The people who are going to object to two boys kissing on the cover were going to object to the book from the moment I typed the first sentence” (para 6).

Two read-alikes that I would recommend are Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz or What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. They both have similar tones to them, with love and heartbreak, struggles and triumphs, and are realistic/contemporary teen books like Two Boys Kissing. Although if readers are willing to step outside their comfort zones, I would highly recommend the Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee as a brilliant read-alike in a less related way.

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