Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Kissing

4.4 29
by David Levithan

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A 2014 Lambda Literary Award Winner
A 2014 Stonewall Honor Book
Named to the 2013 National Book Award Longlist
"You have to read this.”
- Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park

In his follow-up to the New York Times bestselling Every Day, David Levithan, coauthor of

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A 2014 Lambda Literary Award Winner
A 2014 Stonewall Honor Book
Named to the 2013 National Book Award Longlist
"You have to read this.”
- Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park

In his follow-up to the New York Times bestselling Every Day, David Levithan, coauthor of bestsellers Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, crafts a novel that the Los Angeles Times calls “open, frank, and ultimately optimistic.”
Based on true events—and narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS—Two Boys Kissing follows Harry and Craig, two seventeen-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teens dealing with universal questions of love, identity, and belonging.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It’s a different world for teenagers coming of age and coming out now, compared to when Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy was published 10 years ago. He speaks directly to this new generation in this novel, which instantly claims its place in the canon of gay literature. As the title suggests, a kiss plays a central part: it takes place on the lawn of a high school where two former boyfriends try to set a world record for the longest kiss. As the title also suggests, this one’s for the boys. Although varyingly supportive friends and family are part of the story, Levithan focuses on the gay male community. Craig and Henry, the two participating in the kiss, are no longer dating, throwing an element of uncertainty into an act that’s romantic, political, and personal. Neil and Peter have been dating for a year and are beginning to wonder what’s next. Avery, “born a boy that the rest of the world saw as a girl,” and Ryan are caught up in the dizzying excitement of meeting someone new. And Cooper is rapidly losing himself into a digital oblivion. But as much as this story is about these teenagers, it’s also about their forebears. Levithan builds a bridge between today’s young gay men and those who have come (and gone) before them through an audacious choice of narrator: the collective generation of gay men lost to AIDS. This chorus of voices holds court on body image (“When we were healthy we were ignorant. We could never be content in our own skin”), family (both biological and found), hookup apps, dancing, the reality of watching loved ones die, and the fleeting preciousness of life. The narrators are positioned as self-described “shadow uncles” and “angel godfathers,” but Levithan doesn’t canonize them. “The minute you stop talking about individuals and start talking about a group, your judgment has a flaw in it,” they observe when negative reactions to the boys’ kiss mount as it gains widespread attention. “We made this mistake often enough.” There are no chapters; the story moves among the characters’ experiences and the narrators’ commentary, proceeding ever forward in the way that life does. As Craig and Henry’s kiss approaches record-setting territory, and Cooper approaches becoming a statistic, the novel builds into something triumphant. Many will read the final pages with their hearts in their throats. Levithan makes it clear that loving and living are as imperfect as those who practice them, but no less precious for their flaws. A landmark achievement from a writer and editor who has helped create, in literature, a haven for queer youth. Ages 12–up. Agent: Bill Clegg, William Morris Endeavor. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
In this ground-breaking novel, David Levithan takes young readers into the hearts and minds of two young men falling in love. Written from the perspective of a generation that has endured pain, AIDS, and eventual triumph, this tale takes readers into the heart of what it means to be different, to find love in unexpected people, and to discover human nature and suffering while coming-of-age in America. Levithan skillfully integrates the voices of a generation past into this narrative. The narrative is centered on a kiss that lasts longer than 30 hours; Levithan weaves the kisses of Peter and Neil, the suffering and depression of Cooper, and the developing relationship of Avery and Ryan into the pages of this story. During the course of the novel, the author takes readers on a long journey, from the voices of those who were part of the gay rights movement to the pain that many young men feel on a daily basis today. Levithan is a fine writer with compelling prose, memorable storylines, and characters who feel like friends we will someday meet. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D. AGERANGE: Ages 12 up.
Kirkus Reviews
Gay past and gay present collide. Right from the start readers will know something weird is going on with Levithan's latest. The narrator(s) refers to themselves as "us," and readers will soon deduce that it's the Kushner-esque collective voice of a gay generation from decades before, one that was ravaged by AIDS, anger, politics and more. It's through their lens that this story of seven boys from the present is told. The first two--whose activities are imparted in the work's title--are Craig and Harry. They're out to break the world's kissing record (32 hours, 12 minutes and 9 seconds) to protest a hate crime enacted upon their friend. They're not a couple anymore, and Craig still smarts from the breakup. A second pair--Peter and Neil--have been a couple for a while, but that doesn't mean their relationship is perfect. Pink-haired trans Avery and blue-haired Ryan meet at an alternative LGBT prom, and sparks fly. All the while, Cooper, kicked out of his parents' house and obsessed with gay-hookup apps, suffers alone. The story drifts back and forth and among these seven youth under the watchful, occasionally curmudgeonly voice of the past, which weighs down the narrative too much at times. The novel has genuine moments of insight and wisdom, but it feels calculated and lacks the spontaneity that made Levithan's first two novels so magical. Still, fans of his earlier works will appreciate the familiar tone, characters and themes they've come to love over the years. It's well-intentioned and inspiring, but it doesn't push any boundaries. (Fiction. 14 & up)
From the Publisher
“There are more than two boys kissing in this book, and every one of them will reach your heart. You have to read this.
- Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park

- Frank Bruni, The New York Times

Entertainment Weekly
, August 21, 2013:
"Author David Levithan's poignant novel follows the stories of gay teens joined through an unconventional protest. A-"

The Washington Post, August 20, 2013:
"Over the years, Levithan has consistently explored new creative territory...'Two Boys Kissing' reveals his command of an intriguing, complex narrative with an unusual point of view: the first-person plural. This 'we' is the combined voice of men who died during the AIDS pandemic several decades ago. As the boys’ stories become more closely entwined and connect in a satisfying finale, the reflections of these 'shadow uncles' lend a quality of retrospection that is rare (and refreshing) in YA literature."

The Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2013:
"Open, frank and ultimately optimistic."

The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy, October 24, 2013:
"'Two Boys Kissing’ couldn’t have arrived at a more timely moment, just months after the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. The shift in society’s attitudes towards the LGBT community has long been embraced by many in the young adult crowd. Levithan seems to intuitively understand this generation—and his new book allows him to bring their particular struggles and joys to life."

Newsday, August 21, 2013:
"We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, goes an oft-paraphrased line. David Levithan gives vivid voice to it in his latest YA novel, 'Two Boys Kissing'.

BookPage, August 28, 2013:
"Levithan’s powerful, multifaceted novel explores just how far things have come for many gay teens—and how far things still need to go."

Starred Review, The Bulletin, September 2013:

"Both celebratory and elegiac… There’s much to discuss here about identity, about social media, about community—and it would be a particularly stellar choice for a multi-generational LGTBQ-focused book club.”

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 3, 2013:
"A landmark achievement from a writer and editor who has helped create, in literature, a haven for queer youth."

"No one does heart-pulling emotion like Levithan, and this book, coming a decade after his groundbreaking debut, 'Boy Meets Boy,' has special resonance."
- Gayle Forman, author of Just One Day and Just One Year, for

"Brilliant, moving, important, and wise."

- Jennifer E. Smith, author of This Is What Happy Looks Like and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

WAMC Northeast Public Radio, September 19, 2013:
"Two Boys Kissing will make you laugh and cry, but best of all, it will make you relive those perfect innocuous moments of finding and then being with your first love."

Romantic Times Book Review, September 2013:
"Thought provoking, poignant and beautifully written, above all this is an unbelievably important book for anyone who has struggled with identity, love and loss. The omniscient narration is incredibly moving and appreciative of the fragility of life. A groundbreaking addition to the LGBT genre and community."

Kirkus Reviews
, July 15, 2013:
"The novel has genuine moments of insight and wisdom...Inspiring.", August 23, 2013:
"Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan takes the stories of all these boys and spins them into an interconnecting web that will leave you emotionally exhausted and absolutely thrilled to have read something so beautiful and unique...Will educate, entertain and move you."
, May 6, 2013:
"Levithan takes contemporary to a whole new space with this novel, finding new ground in storytelling around important issues that directly affect teens today."

Booklist, August 1, 2013:
"Levithan leans intensely into this work...There’s little doubt that this title, with its weight, significance, and literary quality, will find its way into LGBTQ and wider cannons. Stock up."

School Library Journal, September 2013:
"The story will engage readers, both female and male."

"The high level of imaginative and intuitive empathy that is apparent in all of his works is especially strong here—as not only are his protagonists fully realized, but so are the voices of the collective narration, whose experiences are as varied as the characters on the page... It is the best book I have read this year."
- Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Books Inc.

"Everyone needs to read this, not just YA. How perfectly David puts the past, present and future into one small novel. Now, as soon as my eyes stop watering and the goose bumps on my arms go away, I can continue my day."
- Carolyn Anbar, Watchung Booksellers

"Levithan's choice of narrator was inspiring and heartbreaking. Giving a voice to that generation and exposing young kids to those voices, blew me away...Two Boys Kissing feels like a very important book, something I think everyone should read and something that's touched me in a way no YA has in a really long time."
- John Kwiatkowski, Murder by the Book

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Narrated by an often heavy-handed Greek chorus of men who died of AIDS, this novel features the stories of one transgender and several gay teens. It focuses on Harry and Craig, friends and ex-boyfriends who have set out to beat the Guinness World Record for kissing. Harry's parents accept that he is gay and are there as witnesses, while Craig's parents find out that he's gay after his mother is told about their record-breaking attempt. Other characters include Tariq, the victim of a hate crime; boyfriends Neil and Peter; and female-to-male (FTM) transgender teen Avery and his love interest, Ryan. Finally, there is isolated, angry, and disaffected Cooper. He spends his nights trolling sex sites online and runs away from home when confronted by his furious parents. Although Levithan has a tendency toward didacticism, his characters are likable, with some more developed than others. The story will engage readers, both female and male. The author's note discusses the true events that inspired this story. Despite its flaws, this title is recommended based on subject need.—Nancy Silverrod, San Francisco Public Library

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 8.36(h) x 0.78(d)
HL780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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