Friday, 10 October 2014

two boys kissing by david levithan

i actually finished reading this before 'looking for jj' but didn't get chance to blog at the time.  actually thinking about it, this is another ya book that's not that fluffy either but it is an excellent read.  it's the story of several different, unconnected gay teenage boys, all watched over by a chorus of men who died of aids.  (can you say aids victims?  you wouldn't say cancer victim, would you?)  i really liked this part of the book, i suppose i'd never really thought about how it must have felt for those men, and you probably wouldn't get teenagers to read a novel about what it would have been like to live through it in the 80s and 90s, so its quite a good way of sneaking the subject into the novel.  it could get a bit abstract and over-poetic at times, but i thought it was a cool idea.

but the main action of the novel centres around the two boys kissing, craig and harry, attempting the world record for longest kiss.  all the action takes place from the night before the record attempt to the conclusion of the kiss, and it drives through a story which otherwise might feel quite bitty.  i was there with them, cheering them on but also experiencing the tiredness, the aches and pains, the bladder discomfort... alongside their stories we also meet avery and ryan, from their first glance across the room to their second date; committed, comfortable couple neil and peter; tariq, friend of the would-be longest kissers and victim of homophobic violence; and isolated, desperate cooper who needs a way out.  what's striking is that there is something for every single teenager to relate to, gay or straight or bi or whatever.  I wanted to race to the end of the novel because i wanted craig and harry to be able to take a break and sleep, but also i didn't want to leave the characters, i wanted to find out what happened to everyone else afterwards - not just in the immediate future but what kinds of adults they turned out be.  the only negative thing i can say about it is that, unsurprisingly given the subject matter, it was really male-centric, to the point of excluding women and girls, and i keep asking myself whether this exclusion was justified - a question i haven't been able to answer yet. but this is one of those books that you think everyone in the world should read, it would be a better place if they did.

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