Two boys decide to set a world record for the longest single kiss. They do it as a statement of solidarity for a friend who suffered a hate crime. As these two boys kiss for hours and days, they become the link for other boys who are struggling in their relationships, falling in love for the first time, and navigating their identities.
This is a hard one to summarize, but it’s even harder to explain the narrative that frames it. Levithan chose to narrate this novel (based on real-life events) with what can only be described as a chorus of voices. Part Kushner-esque, part Greek chorus of old, this omniscient, omnipresent narrator takes the form of a generation of gay men who struggled during the AIDS epidemic. So, yeah, that frames this novel.
Levithan is a good enough writer that it mostly works. There are some truly great moments where the narrators offer insight and wisdom that is poignant and transcends sexuality and sexual orientation and should reach a broad spectrum of readers. But too often, the narration feels like a gimmick, and readers can see the wheels turning behind the pages. Clunky moments drag down the story and make it less effective.
There’s also the issue of distance. The boys (and there are several) whose story the narrators are telling never feel all that close to the reader. I couldn’t help but feel like there was a gap I couldn’t cross to fully understand the characters. Blame this on the complex point of view.
That being said, this is going to find a readership, both in the GLBTQA community and the community at large. Levithan is a voice for GLBTQ youth, and he understands them well. I just wish this one wasn’t quite so conceptual.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. Knopf Books for Young Readers: 2013. Library copy. Read for 2013 Cybils.