Book: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, Listening Library, August 27, 2013
Book Info: YA Contemporary, purchased from Audible.com. Running time: 6 hrs, 15 mins. Read by: David Levithan. Also available in hardcover and e-book from Random House.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
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. This follow-up to the best-selling Every Day showcases David’s trademark sharp-witted, warm-hearted tales of teenage love, and serves as a perfect thematic bookend to David’s YA debut and breakthrough, Boy Meets Boy, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2013.
David Levithan is an auto-buy author for me, and my daughter has become a huge fan. She read the ARC of Two Boys Kissing before I did in fact and loved it. I wanted to wait for the audiobook, especially since its read by the author. Two Boys Kissing is a powerful book with a unique voice. It’s narrated by the spirits of gay men who died of AIDS and watch and wonder over the current generation of gay males. A series of character vignettes intersect to show the contrast between then and now- how things have changed and how they have remained the same. The backdrop of the two boys kissing for the Guinness Book of World Records is the link that binds the characters together.
We follow several teen boys throughout the book: The two boys kissing are exes Harry and Craig, Neil and Peter are in a long-term relationship, transgendered Avery meets Ryan, and Cooper is getting lost in the digital dating world. Each person has their ups and downs over the course of the book, and there are examples of good and bad parenting and coming out experiences. Cooper’s story probably got to me the most, and like the narrators of the book I wanted to reach out and help him through his crisis.
The ghost narrators see the familiar and unfamiliar in the world of today’s gay teens, from bullying and unaccepting parents, to gay proms and the rally of support of two boys kissing. I remember the early days of the AIDS pandemic so that colored my reading experience and made it hit home all the more. The voices from the past give contextual relevance to the events taking place in the present, and you can feel the collective sorrow, joy and hope in their words.
I listened to the audiobook, read by the author himself, David Levithan. I think it’s my first time hearing the author’s voice, and there’s always a part of me that worries when an author chooses to read their own work rather than leave it to the professionals. But, in this case Levithan delivers the book’s narration expertly, and I can’t imagine anyone else reading it. When an author can do voice work I think it’s great that they narrate their work- who else knows the book better, right? Levithan expertly conveys the emotional state of mind of the different personalities and brings the stories to life. There are several generations of voices and personalities in the book, and Levithan gives each a distinct delivery. With the books unique narrative the audiobook helped me keep track of all the characters and made the message resonate even more.
This book and Every Day are my favorite Levithan books and I think Two Boys Kissing is very relevant and moving. I was connected to the story through Levithan’s gorgeous words, and found the voices of the narrators meaningful. I still haven’t read Boy Meets Boy so I need to fix that to see how times have changed in ten years.
Two Boys Kissing is on sale now, and author David Levithan is donating $2 for every book purchased for the first two weeks to The Trevor Project. You can buy a signed copy of Two Boys Kissing from Books of Wonder.