Two Boys Kissing
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August, 2013
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: 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.
What I Think: Just when I think David Levithan is as amazing as he can be, he goes and writes another book and knocks my socks off. In Two Boys Kissing, he's able to be poignant and relevant at the same time. I'm not sure what it's like to be in the head of a gay male teenager these days, or ever, but I feel that I can better empathize after reading this book. I believe David captures so many raw emotions as he describes his characters and their situations.
I wasn't sure how anyone could get more creative with narrators and points of view in a story after Every Day, but again David is able to show us how. This book is a blend of hearing from what I interpret as spirits past of gay men and the handful of characters in the present. In rereading the GoodReads summary above, I don't think it does justice to the gravity held within the pages of Two Boys Kissing. Alternating between the spirits and then each of the different characters in the book, we are able to see the highs and lows and all the emotions in between that they experience and how the spirits relate to them. The spirits are there to acknowledge the characters and how they are feeling and it made me realize more than ever how lonely it might feel to not only be a teenager and establishing one's identity but to also be navigating being gay in today's world. By including the spirits as a narrator in the story, David is able to address feelings and issues without seeming didactic. I actually loved some of those parts the most. I listened to the book on audio and I found myself starting tracks over and over again to truly let the words resonate.
The juxtaposition of the characters in present time and the spirits in Two Boys Kissing makes me recognize how awesome would it be if all kids/teens had mentors. I believe every child should have supportive adults who believe in him or her. While those adults can definitely be family members, a non-family member can be a significant mentor and cheerleader as well. Can you just imagine if every teen could have a mentor like David? Someone to help him or her not feel alone in his or her feelings? A couple years ago, I heard Steven Layne speak about balcony people. Your balcony people are those people who have impacted your life in a small or big way but ultimately have changed your life. He calls them our personal cheerleaders. I love this image of people watching over us and applauding from the balcony. I know there are so many people in my own balcony and it breaks my heart to think that some of our students don't have enough people in their balconies.
After reading this book I have a more heightened awareness of how critical it is that we are attuned to all of our students but especially to our LGBTQ students. Maybe they need someone to listen, maybe they need someone to address homophobic remarks, maybe they need help finding books like Two Boys Kissing. I'm so glad we have this book and see how it is a necessary read for adults and teens alike.
Read Together: Grades 9 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 9 - 12
Read With: Every Day and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Dear Bully edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, Girl Meets Boy edited by Kelly Milner Halls
Snatch of Text:
"There is nothing so heartening as a chance." (p. 30)
"'With some people, the minute you start talking, it feels like you've known them for years. It only means that you were supposed to meet sooner. You're feeling all the time you should've known each other, but didn't. That time still counts. You can definitely feel it.'" (Caitlin, p. 87)
"This is what we don't admit about first kisses: One of the most gratifying things about them is that they are proof, actual proof, that the other person wants to kiss us.
We are desirable. We desire.
Every kiss that matters contains a recognition at its core." (p. 94)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections
Writing Strategies to Practice: Point of View, Alternating Characters, Characterization, Description, Personal Narrative, Metaphor, Word Choice, Author's Purpose, Oxymoron
Writing Prompts: Choose a person in your life and write about the relationship that you have with that person. How did it start? How long have you known each other? What do you have in common? How do you differ? What do you think contributes to your relationship - whether it works or doesn't?
Topics Covered: Relationships, Friendship, Love, Family, Identity, Honesty, Loyalty, Self Confidence, Self Esteem, Hope