Excerpts: Two Boys Kissing

You can’t know what it is like for us now — you will always be one step behind.”

Yes, I have read this book before. Yes, it has been out for awhile. Yes, I’m still going to plug it. David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing is one of my favorite books. Let me tell you why.

This book is not simply about “two boys kissing” as the title would suggest. Yes, the novel features “two boys kissing” — specifically, Craig and Harry. This former couple uses their “kiss” to make a statement; by breaking the world record for longest kiss (32 hours!), they hope to bring awareness to the people around them. To bring awareness to what happened to their friend Tariq.

But it is more than Harry, Craig, and Tariq, and all of the people gathered in front of their high school. Through a Greek-style chorus, the voices of the AIDs generation weaves together the stories of other couples, of other people who come into contact with Harry and Craig’s kiss. We witness Neil and Peter, who are navigating the world as a couple, Ryan and Avery, who are blossoming into what could be, and Cooper, who is so alone and fragile that it breaks our hearts. This is the core of Two Boys Kissing, that it is not merely a story of a kiss but also one of hope.

Two Boys Kissing is inspired by a real life kiss. In describing the novel, Levithan says that he took his inspiration from Matt Daley and Bobby Cancielo’s record-breaking feat, which even has its own documentary That being said, what I love about Two Boys Kissing is not the real life events. It is the intergenerational conversation, one that I think we are still having today. I love the idea that we are not merely islands, that what has come before us will affect what comes next, and that we need to be cognizant of that past. I could certainly write on all of the books that I have read about that past, but somehow, I think the voices — fictionalized though they are through Levithan’s writing — provide a far more haunting testimony.

We wish we could offer you a creation myth, an exact reason why you are the way you are, why when you read this sentence, you know it’s about you. But we don’t know how it began. We barely understood the time that we knew. We gather things we learned, and they don’t nearly add up to fill the space of a life.