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Monday, October 14, 2013

Audiobook Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

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.

Sometime in these past few years, David Levithan has become a bit of a rockstar in my head. His books always begin with a simplicity and quiet, but, suddenly, they've escalated to a roar. I actually listened to his newest book, Two Boys Kissing, on a road trip to pick up a friend (Katie, of the blog Sophistikatied). Upon arriving at her house, I immediately asked her if she'd read Two Boys Kissing yet, to which she responded no. Of course, I launched into a rant about how amazing I thought it was - after only 2 discs out of 5!

Two Boys Kissing tells many different stories, but all are tied to Harry and Craig, two boys who used to date and are attempting to break the world record for longest kiss. The boys are trying to make statement and are inspired by a friend who was attacked and beat for being gay and alone on a dark street. The stories of other boys are interwoven, including that of two boys who have just met (one of whom is transgender), two boys who have been dating and are dealing with the everyday difficulties of long-term relationships and secrets, and another boy who has yet to come out and struggles with self-loathing. Throughout the novel, a greek chorus composed of gay men who died of AIDS, offers insight into the past, present, and future of gay individuals and the gay community.

The audio of Two Boys Kissing is narrated by Levithan, which I very much enjoyed and appreciated. I always feel that there is something more real about hearing a book in the author's voice. Levithan in particular has a certain strength in his voice that added to the novel. He knew exactly how his characters were supposed to sound and were feeling, which I think is very important in a novel like this. In fact, it was this short clip from the very beginning of the book that made me decide to listen to Two Boys Kissing rather than simply read the novel.

I will admit that, within the various stories being told, there were some that I was less interested in than others. I just didn't click with the two boys who had just met and were getting to know one another. In theory, I loved their story: the difficulty of knowing how much to tell when you meet someone new, the rush, the connection, the fear. In reality, I just didn't connect either boy. I did however, love Craig and Harry and was transfixed by the greek chorus that interjected stories and comments throughout the novel.

I'm very glad that I chose audio for Two Boys Kissing. My drive was, at various times, filled with laughter, happy smiles, and all-out sobbing. I suppose that last one might not be the safest for a road trip, but you can always pull over!

Two Boys Kissing deserves to win awards and is a book that needs to be read. As I listened, I kept thinking, this is life. These boys are living life, messy, difficult, crazy, happy life, just like everyone else - how can anyone argue that there is something wrong with being gay? Two Boys Kissing is about acceptance... life... love. It is incredibly real and utterly unforgettable.


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