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Two Boys Kissing
Cover of Two Boys Kissing
Two Boys Kissing
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"You have to read this." —Rainbow Rowell, bestselling author of Eleanor & Park In his follow-up to tthe New York Times bestselling author of Every Day, andDavid Levithan, coauthor of...
"You have to read this." —Rainbow Rowell, bestselling author of Eleanor & Park In his follow-up to tthe New York Times bestselling author of Every Day, andDavid Levithan, coauthor of...
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  • "You have to read this." Rainbow Rowell, bestselling author of Eleanor & Park
    In his follow-up to tthe New York Times bestselling author of Every Day, andDavid Levithan, coauthor of bestsellers Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green) and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn), 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.

    Named to the National Book Award Longlist
    A Lambda Literary Award Winner
    A Stonewall Honor Book
    "An intriguing, complex narrative with an unusual point of view...[and] a quality of retrospection that is rare (and refreshing) in YA literature." —The Washington Post
    From the Hardcover edition.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book You can't know what it is like for us now—you will always be one step behind.

    Be thankful for that.

    You can't know what it was like for us then—you will always be one step ahead.

    Be thankful for that, too.

    Trust us: There is a nearly perfect balance between the past and the future. As we become the distant past, you become a future few of us would have imagined.

    It's hard to think of such things when you are busy dreaming or loving or screwing. The context falls away. We are a spirit-burden you carry, like that of your grandparents, or the friends from your childhood who at some point moved away. We try to make it as light a burden as possible. And at the same time, when we see you, we cannot help but think of ourselves. We were once the ones who were dreaming and loving and screwing. We were once the ones who were living, and then we were the ones who were dying. We sewed ourselves, a thread's width, into your history.

    We were once like you, only our world wasn't like yours.

    You have no idea how close to death you came. A generation or two earlier, you might be here with us.

    We resent you. You astonish us.

    It's 8:07 on a Friday night, and right now Neil Kim is thinking of us. He is fifteen, and he is walking over to his boyfriend Peter's house. They have been going out for a year, and Neil starts by thinking about how long this seems. From the beginning, everyone has been telling him it won't last. But now, even if it doesn't last forever, it feels like it has lasted long enough to be meaningful. Peter's parents treat Neil like a second son, and while Neil's own parents are still alternately confused and distressed, they haven't barred any of the doors.

    Neil has two DVDs, two bottles of Diet Dr Pepper, cookie dough, and a book of poems in his backpack. This—and Peter—is all it takes for him to feel profoundly lucky. But luck, we've learned, is actually part of an invisible equation. Two blocks away from Peter's house, Neil gets a glimpse of this, and is struck by a feeling of deep, unnamed gratitude. He realizes that part of his good fortune is his place in history, and he thinks fleetingly of us, the ones who came before. We are not names or faces to him; we are an abstraction, a force. His gratitude is a rare thing—it is much more likely for a boy to feel thankful for the Diet Dr Pepper than he is to feel thankful for being healthy and alive, for being able to walk to his boyfriend's house at age fifteen without any doubt that this is the right thing to do.

    He has no idea how beautiful he is as he walks up that path and rings that doorbell. He has no idea how beautiful the ordinary becomes once it disappears.

    If you are a teenager now, it is unlikely that you knew us well. We are your shadow uncles, your angel godfathers, your mother's or your grandmother's best friend from college, the author of that book you found in the gay section of the library. We are characters in a Tony Kushner play, or names on a quilt that rarely gets taken out anymore. We are the ghosts of the remaining older generation. You know some of our songs.

    We do not want to haunt you too somberly. We don't want our legacy to be gravitas. You wouldn't want to live your life like that, and you won't want to be remembered like that, either. Your mistake would be to find our commonality in our dying. The living part mattered more.

    We taught you how to dance.

    It's true. Look at Tariq Johnson on the dance floor. Seriously—look at him. Six feet three inches tall, one hundred eighty pounds, all of which can be converted by the right clothes and the right song into a mass of...

About the Author-

  • DAVID LEVITHAN is a children's book editor in New York City and the author of several books for young adults, including Boy Meets Boy, Love Is the Higher Law, and Every Day. He coauthored Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green, and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, and Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List with Rachel Cohn.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 3, 2013
    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.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2013
    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)

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2013

    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

    Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    August 1, 2013
    Grades 9-12 It's impossible to ignore the context of Levithan's latest novel. The timing is perfectin the age of Dan Savage's It Gets Better (2011) and recent Supreme Court rulings on marraige equality, a book meant for young adults features a real-life gay teen couple kissing on the cover, standing in for the book's two fictional boys, ex-boyfriends hoping to share the world's longest kiss. The story is narrated from the beyond by the shadow uncles gay men of the AIDS generationwho tell millennial gay boys, We don't want our legacy to be gravitas. These narrators marvel and remark upon Harry and Craig's kiss (a protest of hate crimes committed against a friend), the impact on two other couples at different stages of their relationships, and a hopeless loner in clear emotional danger. Levithan leans intensely into this work, which occasionally reveals the gears grinding the piece into shape, thereby dissipating some of the magic. Still, there's little doubt that this title, with its weight, significance, and literary quality, will find its way into LGBTQ and wider canons. Stock up.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

  • Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Books Inc. "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."

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    Random House Children's Books
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