Book #96: Two Boys Kissing (2013)

Two-Boys-Kissing-David-Levithan1Author: David Levithan
Language: English
Length: 239 pages
Finished reading on: 15 December 2015

There aren’t any gay bookstores in Japan, unless you count the ones that are mainly for porn. You get BL manga, but I’m still too lazy to try to read them properly. It’s a lot of effort. So I kind of jumped at the chance to go to the gay bookstores in London and Amsterdam when I was there last summer. I think this book came from the one in Amsterdam, one of the least sleazy gay spaces I could find there, frankly. Most of it’s offputting. Anyway, I’d been there before a few years ago, but it’s honestly a bit hit-and-miss, in my experience – it was definitely there that I acquired one or two truly terrible gay movies.

So anyway, the book itself is by David Levithan and is aimed at teenagers, so it’s reading below my supposed level, but that makes it easy (and it’s pretty short!). I also picked his book because I’d read one by him before, called ”Boy Meets Boy”, a couple of years ago, and it’d been relaxing and funny to read.

This was more of a slice-of-life story, with the central story being two boys in Small Town America deciding to try and break the record for longest kiss, meaning that they have to stay with lips locked for about thirty hours or so. Apparently their attempt is based on a true story, as are a lot of the other stories in the book. There are a bunch of other characters – couples – with all their own foibles, and the book switches between them like a TV show. The stories only interact minimally – like they see the two boys on the local news or something.

I realized too late that the book has this conceit that it’s being told in the disembodied first person of the ghosts of the AIDS crisis, with phrases such as “We look down at the two boys kissing” punctuating the stories, or the narrators saying they’re jealous of the opportunities afforded to the protagonist kids – and it’s quite explicitly setting out to draw attention to LGBT history. I think this is something important to talk about, and to point out that the people of that period are not different from people of today… but this was a ham-fisted and awkward way to do it, and was the most annoying thing about reading the book, which is a shame. I also think that it tries too hard to be an Issues Book – sometimes I feel that too many “gay” novels and movies feel the need to include at least one of AIDS, suicide, bullying, coming out, parental acceptance, and any other issues that may be hot-button at the time, and this one tries to include them all – and I’m more looking for an outlet away from the doom and gloom with a happy ending (which is provided, by and large).

The other thing is that the stories themselves aren’t well developed. I’d like to see a bit more of each person’s story! But it was an enjoyable and easy read after the last book I read, and I appreciated that a lot. It’s also uplifting, despite the Issues. I’ll probably be reading more of Levithan’s works, but I’d really only recommend this one to actual teenagers. Unlike the other book I read, which is also decidedly YA fiction, I’m really too old to appreciate this one fully. The other one had a lot more that would appeal to any age of reader, in my opinion.

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