Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Two Boys Kissing

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts):  A story about the present told by those who came before.

Author: David Levithan
Info: Knopf Books for Young Readers, copyright 2013, 208 pages

Hub Challenge Read - #hubchallenge

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.

~Goodreads Description~

I'm hesitant to write this review because this is David Levithan.  I understand he is revered, admired, and adored for his writing talents.  But I'm not a David Levithan fan.  I don't know him personally, and I'd absolutely like to pick his brain.  I just don't like his books, at least his solo efforts.  And I fully accept  that I'm not really the intended audience.  I just don't fully appreciate his voice. Putting that out there...

The Not So Awesome
(Have to work backwards on this one.)  If you read my review for The Impossible Knife of Memory, you know how I feel about issue books.  This one beats you over the head.  It's most definitely a soap box book that tries so hard to be profound that it just becomes terribly obnoxious.  Again, I understand I'm not the intended audience, so much of this is lost on me.  And I know that there are teens navigating young adulthood looking for answers and understanding that can fully embrace what this book is about, but the heavy handed approach was just too much for me.

In the depths of this book are some pretty compelling stories.  Maybe a few too many stories, but compelling none the less.  Harry and Craig, former boyfriends, attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest kiss.  Their story is one of friendship, family, and courage.  Then there is Ryan and Avery, two young men who meet at prom and are enjoying the sparks of new love.  Their story is one of acceptance, forgiveness, and trust.  Then there is Cooper, the lonely, lost teen who is looking for a way out.  His story is one of self-loathing, disillusionment, and fear.  Then there is Peter and Neil, long time boyfriends comfortable in the life they are making together.  Then there is Tariq, the victim who doesn't want to be a victim.  There are WAY too many stories!  And you don't really get to know any of the characters because the book is dominated by the narration of a Greek Chorus that attempts to be understanding and compassionate but just comes off as overwrought and overbearing.

The Awesome
There are the stories.  And that is where this book excels, and that is what made me finish.  Each story gives the reader a new perspective, a different ideal, a reason for hope.

I look forward to the day when LGBT isn't a theme.  An issue.  When a character being gay doesn't define the character.  That's one thing I really appreciated about Alaya Dawn Johnson's The Summer Prince. Love didn't know gender, and when it came to sexuality, the characters had nothing to prove.  Until that time, I'll make sure books like this are on my library's shelves.  While I didn't care for it, this is definitely a book that some of my teen patrons would enjoy and appreciate.


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