Levithan, D. (2013). Two boys kissing. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
Plot Summary: This book tells the story of several gay boys all living in the same area. Craig and Henry are best friends and ex boyfriends who are trying to set the world record for the longest kiss as a message about equality. They were inspired to do this after their friend Tariq was beaten by several boys for being gay. Tariq helps them with their attempt by staying awake with them the whole time to man the cameras, reply to comments on the live stream of the kiss and play music from a special playlist he made for the occasion. Peter and Neil are an established couple and are contrasted by Avery and Ryan who meet at the start of the book and are just beginning their relationship. Cooper is the final teen in the book and he is severely depressed and tries to commit suicide after his parents catch him talking to men online. The story ends with Cooper’s life being saved, Tariq still supporting Craig and Henry who do set the record, Peter and Neil witnessing the kiss, and Avery and Ryan getting their date back on track after being harassed by homophobic jerks.
Critical Evaluation: The story has a really interesting narrative style as it is told by the collective voice of gay men who died during the Aids epidemic. This gives the book an overall hopeful tone. They are rooting for these boys to make the right choices and celebrating the freedom these boys have that they did not. This collective voice wants to celebrate and savor life. It does however still acknowledge the pain the characters go through and the hate they face which is why it has a hopeful rather than happy tone. This very much fits the seriousness of the issues some of the characters are facing while still allowing the joy of the happy moments in the book to shine. The book does a good job of capturing multiple gay experiences each of the boys is a whole unique character with different challenges. Some of the characters have very supportive friends and family like Craig who’s parents help with the planing of the kiss and Avery whose parents realize he is trans* at a young age and get him the medical help to transition. Other characters have parents that are less supportive like Craig whose family finds out he is gay during the kiss and do not really approve but still come to make sure he is safe when they find out the boys have been egged. Cooper has the least supportive parents his father yells at him calling him a “Faggot” and a “Whore” when he finds out he has been talking to men online but he redeems himself by coming to get Cooper after his suicide attempt and is descried as having never loved him more than that moment. While this book is not a perfect example of every LGBTQ teens experience I think that most will be able to find something they relate to in these different stories.
Reader’s Annotation: Henry and Craig set out to set the record for the worlds longest kiss as love of all different kinds blooms all around them.
Author Information: David Levithan has authored and co-authored many popular teen books. He lives in New Jersey and is the founding editor of the PUSH imprint of Scholastic Books.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Curriculum Ties: This book could be used to discuss the aids epidemic as the narrative voice describes a lot of details from that time.
Booktalk Ideas: 1) How are things different between the lives of the men who narrate the book and the boys whose stories they are telling?
2) Which of the boys would you say has had the most typical gay experience? Is there really such a thing as a typical gay experience?
Reading Level & Interest Level: This book is listed as being for ages 12-17 which fits the reading level of the book I think the overall interest level of the book would be more solidly teen though because of the amount of romance in the book.
Challenge Issues: This book features LGBTQ characters and romantic scenes between these characters. There are no actual sex scenes but some people do object to youth reading depictions of LGBTQ romance. However this book has received great reviews and been nominated for several awards and can be an important resource for LGBTQ teens. The book also features a suicide attempt when Cooper is tackled while trying to jump off a bridge. This may be triggering to some reader but the book ends on a hopeful note with Cooper being reunited with his parents and the implication that they will have a better relationship moving forward.
Why is it included?: I learned about David Levithan while working on a group report on LGBTQ books for teens. He is a popular and prolific author of teen books so I was really interested in reading one of his books. I chose this book specifically because it was one of his books that I knew the least about and I like surprises.