“When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it.” ― Julian Barnes
This is a different type of book. You won’t find this on a specialty site from a small publisher that loves man-on-man quite like the rest of us. But sometimes a book comes along that is too important to shove aside, particularly one that is so relevant to our history and the way it effects our future. David Levithan is best known for his gay YA masterpiece ‘Boy Meets Boy’ and his collaborative work with New York Times bestseller John Green and the fabulous string of gay friendly books with Rachel Cohn.
This story, in its infinite heart-felt awesomeness, is a partially true story based around the events of two boys in 2010 who kissed for over 32 hours to break the Guinness World Record. The story is not directly based on the lives of those same two college boys, but their power and their dedication is translated on the page in a way only David Levithan could achieve. While the story centres around the two boys, Harry and Craig, in their triumphant marathon kiss, he also pays tribute to Tyler Clementi, a gay youth who lost his life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge just days after the Guinness record was broken. The character Cooper, struggling with feeling anything at all, accidentally outs himself to his abusive father by falling asleep logged into a chat room, causing a downhill cascade of events that leads him right up onto the ledge of a nearby bridge. Levithan has taken a stance with this book. He unabashedly throws intolerance and acceptance into our faces in one of the most surreal ways I have ever had the privilege of reading.
See, the thing that makes this book surreal is not the kiss. It is not the bridge or the nod of the head to the fallen Clementi. Nor is it the supporting characters who face their own issues, transgendered kids or victims of hate crimes. No. It’s the narrative. Not one to shy away from controversy, Levithan opted to narrate the book in the collective voice of every one of our brothers who lost their lives in the AIDS epidemic while Reagan’s administration sat idly by and let the disease massacre the population with ignorance. It was a bold move, but one that worked gloriously to achieve the kind of heartbreaking outcome that the author clearly thrived for.
The story was jumpy, it moved around a lot, but it was all narrated through the eyes of a collective voice, all rooting for the boys they were watching over, all recoiling in fear and horror when it looked like any of the characters may wind up alongside them in their non-corporeal spirit form. They try to yell out to the characters, to warn them, but as in life, the spirits were never heard. This book was so original it was hard to grasp at first, but once you settle into the pace, it takes you to visual extremes you could only begin to imagine, all the while interwoven with small bits of history and small recaps from the nineties when AIDS was picking off the gay population.
The characters were extraordinary, so real in their feelings and motives, so entirely dedicated to their causes, and as we progressed through the story we saw every bit of heart and soul that brought a nation to fall in love with David Levithan’s earlier work. It has the spunk of ‘Boy Meets Boy’, the political core of ‘Wide Awake’ and the sheer mind-bending audacity of ‘Every Day’. This book should be read by every gay YA enthusiast because not only will it be remembered for a long time, it holds the past firmly in its grasp and screams that we are not through with the struggle.
This might not be everyone’s usual casual reading, it might not meet your agenda. Levithan is an established author and he is well known in mainstream circles world over. But like the book aims to show, we are all the same here and every voice counts, no matter how loud it’s screaming. Available from all major distributers, it is my pleasure to award this book an undoubtedly worthy five stars.
You can buy Two Boys Kissing here: