Sunday, August 25, 2013

Standing on the shoulders of angels

A few years ago, showing two boys kissing on the cover would have been unimaginable. Now, some people still think it's groundbreaking. I feel it's right, and that it's just about effing time.

Until yesterday, my favorite David Levithan was Boy Meets Boy, which I deemed so perfect. (How can DL top this, no?) But last night, on the same day I got a copy, I finished Two Boys Kissing, his latest novel. And, boy oh boy, is it so damn good! And this post is my total, all-out, I'm-not-worthy, completely-blown-off-through-the-roof rave about it.

While Two Boys Kissing shows, well, two boys kissing, it's not all about the kiss. DL uses it as a device to tell a fine story. And it's a story told by unseen voices of an older generation of gay men. These are the people who got sick of AIDS, who bore the brunt of unequal treatment, who were chastised for their colorful individuality, who were told that they should be ashamed of their "unnatural" desires. But because of them, we now know that it does get better.

There are quite a few story lines in Two Boys Kissing, all involving young teenaged gay men. There's Craig and Henry, who are officially no longer a couple but are determined to set the world's record for the longest kiss of more than 30 hours. Amidst them are Peter and Neil, who are a couple, and they seem to settle issues between them like fairly normal adults. Neil's heritage is Korean, and the way he asks his parents to acknowledge his sexuality is one of the high points of the novel. You gotta love a teenager who's so secure of his sexuality. And again, we have the older generation to thank for giving us that confidence. His medical condition does not define him.

We also learn to love Avery and Ryan, two boys who have just met at a gay prom and are starting their relationship. Pink-haired Avery was born with a medical condition—he was born in a girl's body. When he was very young, he received hormone shots. But the treatments, we are told, will continue, and yet somehow, DL makes it seem irrelevant. What's important, the novel seems to say, is that we are living and that we have the ability to love. Avery does love, and it's glorious to read his budding romance with Ryan. The fact that Avery has to have complete privacy when he goes to the toilet is just an inconvenience.

There's also our single gay guy, Cooper. He spends most of his free time immersed in hook-up sites and apps. If you're a gay guy, you'll all be too familiar with Grindr, yes? In the end, he realizes that hook-ups are shallow. They're all well and good to scratch that itch (oh, we're all too familiar with that), but they don't allow you to connect. Cooper is still lucky to have this way of meeting people like him; the older generation had it more difficult. They cruised, they assembled, they used landlines, they made eye contact. But they still found like-minded people. And that in itself is a celebration.

Let's face it, it took us several years to make people believe that we're just like everyone else. Slowly, one baby step at a time, we're getting equal rights. We're standing on the right side of history, and people are embracing us closer. Yes, there will always be people who hate, who condemn, who feel disgust, but we're no longer riled up as we used to be. Two Boys Kissing always reminds us of that. These were the men who were physically hurt solely for being gay. They were the people who were beaten and sometimes left to die because of their sexuality.

There are so many good and touching things in Two Boys Kissing. DL writes beautifully and every page emits a glorious lyricism. We cheer on Craig and Henry and hope that they do break that record. We then realize that it's not the record that will matter but the fact that two boys can actually kiss in public is a cause for celebration. We root for Avery and Ryan and hope that their romance blossoms. We revel in Peter and Neil's relationship and wish that all couples have their stability. We want to hold Cooper and tell him that it's going to be all right.

I could go on and on as to why you should read Two Boys Kissing. It has something for everyone—gay, straight, out and proud, closeted, the young, and the wise. It will make you feel sad in some parts, but you end up richer for the reading experience.

Read this book if:
  1. You think that people should see more boys kissing.
  2. You love LGBT fiction.
  3. You want a reason to celebrate.


Geosef Garcia said...

Hmmm... Very interesting. I might start reading books by DL. Thanks Peter. :)

Peter S. said...

You're welcome! Thanks for dropping by!

Unknown said...

I've read 2 of DL's books (Boy mets Boy and Every Day). I love it too, esp. Boy meets Boy. It's a healthy antedote for a 30ish g. guy who is borderline jaded! Reminds me of the good stuff back when. He's captured certain ideals which keep us holding on to live another day... in hopes that the entire cosmos will align and finally open the portal to the parallel universe where happy endings are real! hehe

Nice review. I'd definitely read this book. :)

Peter S. said...

So true, Karlie!