Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan

twoboyskissingTwo Boys Kissing is a young-adult novel about, well, two boys kissing. Among other things. It’s about two young gay men, Craig and Harry, who used to be a couple but are still friends, who decide they’re going to break the Guiness world record for the world’s longest kiss as a way to make a public statement against homophobia after another young gay man in their community survived a savage beating. (It was inspired by the story of two gay college students who did indeed set a world record for the longest kiss — it’s since been broken, as records tend to be).

However, Craig’s and Harry’s thirty-plus-hour kiss is only the backdrop for the stories of several other gay teenagers, some of whom are involved in their record-setting attempt, some of whom follow it online, and some of whom are barely aware of it. Covering a span of forty-eight hours, the novel dips into a wide variety of the experiences of young gay men in America today — from those who are fully out in their communities with the support of their families, to those who are still closeted and fighting despair.

One of the most unique elements of this novel is the first-person-plural narration. The narrators who comment on the action are dead gay men, mostly victims of the AIDS epidemic, who are watching this younger generation with interest. It shouldn’t work, but it does, although sometimes the omniscient narrators distance the reader a little from the intimate moment-by-moment experience of the characters themselves. This novel is oddly constructed but also oddly satisfying, and certainly for anyone interested in a contemporary look at the experiences of gay male teenagers, it’s an important book as well.

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