Friday, October 18, 2013

REVIEW: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Title: Two Boys Kissing
Author: David Levithan Website Twitter Facebook
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Pages: 208
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: 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.

First Thoughts: What a much-needed, thought-provoking story; it’s not necessarily a fast-paced story but rather, a profound piece of literature!

I treasure this book not for the story itself, but for the discussions it started and the thoughts it forced. The cover and title alone are in your face and oh-so-perfect. As I read this book during class, I caught the eye of many students readers. I saw them glance once and immediately look back. Some were brave enough to ask about the book, some scoffed at the concept, but all of them discussed it. Two Boys Kissing provided a teachable moment. I explained the book to students, they shared their thoughts, I shared mine and we discussed. Some still rolled their eyes, but other wrote down the title. Some asked if the book was in the library. Some said they had the perfect person to recommend this book to - a friend who desperately needed some support, guidance, and affirmation.

Levithan just has a way with words, seriously goosebump-inducing words. I kept finding myself marking passages, taking pictures, and reading aloud paragraphs. There are so many to choose from, but I just want to give you a snippet of what to expect. Talk about truth in words:

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 then 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.

One struggle I experienced in the beginning - the point of view - actually became one of the most meaningful aspects of the book. The story is told through a Greek chorus; in this case, it’s gay men of the past - men who fought for rights, men who died from AIDS, and men who faced discrimination at every turn. I had a hard time with the “we” in the first few pages, but after getting used to it, I realized what an homage Levithan’s choice is to those who came before us.

Lastly, this book is just so real -  I saw the same reactions in my students that the people in the kissing crowd displayed. There was shock, joy, cheers, jeers; no matter what the feeling, this book definitely elicits real emotions. Two Boys Kissing gives voice to LGBT teens who so badly need to see themselves in current YA literature. And that, in itself, makes it worth the read.

Final Thoughts: This book is going to pull heartstrings for many years to come. This book can challenge your thoughts or affirm your beliefs, either way, it will leave a mark on who you are as a person.

Who Should Read It? Personally, I think every person in America - young, old, gay, straight, male, female - should read this book, but I know that’s unrealistic. In any case, I will continue to share it with my classes and personally recommend it to students I think need it. It’s not just a book for gay teens, it’s a book for everyone.

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