Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Kissing

by David Levithan


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"You have to read this.” Rainbow Rowell, bestselling author of Eleanor & Park

In his follow-up to tthe New York Times bestselling author of Every Day, andDavid Levithan, coauthor of bestsellers Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green) and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn), crafts a novel that the Los Angeles Times calls “open, frank, and ultimately optimistic.”

Based on true events—and narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS—Two Boys Kissing follows Harry and Craig, two seventeen-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teens dealing with universal questions of love, identity, and belonging.
Named to the National Book Award Longlist
A Lambda Literary Award Winner
A Stonewall Honor Book

“An intriguing, complex narrative with an unusual point of view…[and] a quality of retrospection that is rare (and refreshing) in YA literature.” —The Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307931917
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 05/12/2015
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 138,063
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

DAVID LEVITHAN is a children’s book editor in New York City and the author of several books for young adults, including Boy Meets Boy, Love Is the Higher Law, and Every Day. He coauthored Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green, and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, and Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List with Rachel Cohn.


Hoboken, New Jersey

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

New Jersey


B.A., Brown University, 1994

Read an Excerpt

You can't know what it is like for us now—you will always be one step behind.

Be thankful for that.

You can't know what it was like for us then—you will always be one step ahead.

Be thankful for that, too.

Trust us: There is a nearly perfect balance between the past and the future. As we become the distant past, you become a future few of us would have imagined.

It's hard to think of such things when you are busy dreaming or loving or screwing. The context falls away. We are a spirit-burden you carry, like that of your grandparents, or the friends from your childhood who at some point moved away. We try to make it as light a burden as possible. And at the same time, when we see you, we cannot help but think of ourselves. We were once the ones who were dreaming and loving and screwing. We were once the ones who were living, and then we were the ones who were dying. We sewed ourselves, a thread's width, into your history.

We were once like you, only our world wasn't like yours.

You have no idea how close to death you came. A generation or two earlier, you might be here with us.

We resent you. You astonish us.

It's 8:07 on a Friday night, and right now Neil Kim is thinking of us. He is fifteen, and he is walking over to his boyfriend Peter's house. They have been going out for a year, and Neil starts by thinking about how long this seems. From the beginning, everyone has been telling him it won't last. But now, even if it doesn't last forever, it feels like it has lasted long enough to be meaningful. Peter's parents treat Neil like a second son, and while Neil's own parents are still alternately confused and distressed, they haven't barred any of the doors.

Neil has two DVDs, two bottles of Diet Dr Pepper, cookie dough, and a book of poems in his backpack. This—and Peter—is all it takes for him to feel profoundly lucky. But luck, we've learned, is actually part of an invisible equation. Two blocks away from Peter's house, Neil gets a glimpse of this, and is struck by a feeling of deep, unnamed gratitude. He realizes that part of his good fortune is his place in history, and he thinks fleetingly of us, the ones who came before. We are not names or faces to him; we are an abstraction, a force. His gratitude is a rare thing—it is much more likely for a boy to feel thankful for the Diet Dr Pepper than he is to feel thankful for being healthy and alive, for being able to walk to his boyfriend's house at age fifteen without any doubt that this is the right thing to do.

He has no idea how beautiful he is as he walks up that path and rings that doorbell. He has no idea how beautiful the ordinary becomes once it disappears.

If you are a teenager now, it is unlikely that you knew us well. We are your shadow uncles, your angel godfathers, your mother's or your grandmother's best friend from college, the author of that book you found in the gay section of the library. We are characters in a Tony Kushner play, or names on a quilt that rarely gets taken out anymore. We are the ghosts of the remaining older generation. You know some of our songs.

We do not want to haunt you too somberly. We don't want our legacy to be gravitas. You wouldn't want to live your life like that, and you won't want to be remembered like that, either. Your mistake would be to find our commonality in our dying. The living part mattered more.

We taught you how to dance.

It's true. Look at Tariq Johnson on the dance floor. Seriously—look at him. Six feet three inches tall, one hundred eighty pounds, all of which can be converted by the right clothes and the right song into a mass of heedless joy. (The right hair helps, too.) He treats his body like it's made of fireworks, each one timed to the beat. Is he dancing alone or dancing with everyone in the room? Here's the secret: It doesn't matter. He traveled for two hours to get to the city, and when it's all over, it will take him over two hours to get home. But it's worth it. Freedom isn't just about voting and marrying and kissing on the street, although all of these things are important. Freedom is also about what you will allow yourself to do. We watch Tariq when he's sitting in Spanish class, sketching imaginary maps in his notebook. We watch Tariq when he's sitting in the cafeteria, stealing glances at older boys. We watch Tariq as he lays the clothes on his bed, creating the outline of the person he's going to be tonight. We spent years doing these things. And this was what we looked forward to, the thing that Tariq looks forward to. This liberation.

Music isn't much different now from what it was when we hit the dance floor. This means something. We found something universal. We bottled that desire, then released it into the airwaves. The sounds hit your body, and you move.

We are in those particles that send you. We are in that music.

Dance for us, Tariq.

Feel us there in your freedom.

It was an exquisite irony: Just when we stopped wanting to kill ourselves, we started to die. Just when we were feeling strength, it was taken from us.

This should not happen to you.

Adults can talk all they want about youth feeling invincible. Surely, some of us had that bravado. But there was also the dark inner voice telling us we were doomed. And then we were doomed. And then we weren't.

You should never feel doomed.

It is 8:43 on the same Friday night, and Cooper Riggs is nowhere. He's in his room, alone, and it feels like nowhere. He could be outside his room, surrounded by people, and it would still feel like nowhere. The world, in his eyes, is flat and dull. All sensation has been leaked from it, and instead its energy is running through the busy corridors of his mind, making angry, frustrated noise. He is sitting on his bed, and he is wrestling within himself, and ultimately the only thing he can think to do is go on the Internet, because life there is just as flat as real life, without the expectations of real life. He's only seventeen, but online he can be twenty-two, fifteen, twenty-seven. Whatever the other person wants him to be. He has fake profiles, fake photos, fake stats, and fake histories. The conversations are largely fake, too, full of flirtation he'll never deliver on, small sparks that will never turn to fire. He will not admit it, but he is actually looking for the surprise of something genuine. He opens seven sites at once, keeping his mind busy, tricking himself out of nowhere, even if it still feels like nowhere. He gets so lost in the search that nothing else seems to matter, and time becomes worthless, to be spent on worthless things.

We know that some of you are still scared. We know that some of you are still silent. Just because it's better now doesn't mean that it's always good.

Dreaming and loving and screwing. None of these are identities. Maybe when other people look at us, but not to ourselves. We are so much more complicated than that.

We wish we could offer you a creation myth, an exact reason why you are the way you are, why when you read this sentence, you will know it's about you. But we don't know how it began. We barely understood the time that we knew. We gather the things we learned, and they don't nearly add up to fill the space of a life.

You will miss the taste of Froot Loops.

You will miss the sound of traffic.

You will miss your back against his.

You will even miss him stealing the sheets.

Do not ignore these things.

Customer Reviews

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Two Boys Kissing 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Take_Me_AwayPH More than 1 year ago
 Normally I wouldn't pick something like this up. Although I am in no way against homosexuality, since I'm not into it, I just wouldn't read something that CENTERS on it. But then I started hearing things from my blogger friends saying that they loved this book and that the writing style was something that had never been done before and naturally, I got curious. And you guys, this  book changed me.      Now this was my very first Levithan book and I am so glad I chose this one. From the very beginning I was sucked in to the poetic writing style. It really is narrated by a Greek Chorus. This unique writing had me hanging on every word. Just the writing alone had me so emotional I found myself teary eyed and clutching my heart through out the entire book.      I never read reviews until I've written my own, so determine if I wanted to read this book I went and checked out everyone's updates and their ratings. In every update I saw "OMG the feels!" or "My heart breaks for them." This is what made me decide I wanted to read it. And man, after finishing this story I really felt emotionally drained. Every story (because its holds multiple POV's) broke me. I was smitten with everyone's story, but it was actually Cooper's who hit me the most.      In this story we see what being gay did to different boys, in different times of their lives, and their loved ones. Some of those loved ones accepted them and others didn't. I loved that this book doesn't make it all seem like all sunshine and rainbows, because in reality it isn't. Sometimes the dark and gritty happens and teens that read this need to know how to handle it.      Lastly, I loved the ending and Levithan's acknowledgements. The entire story centered around that one very important kiss and in the end the author was able to pull it altogether to that one central location. Not everyone was happy, but they were all there in some way, separate, but still together. I also loved the acknowledgements because in the synopsis it said "based on the true events story" and I was intrigued. I had planned to Google it after wards to see what the real story was, but I didn't have to. Levithan tells about the real story that inspired this one and I saw that as a thanks for them for being so brave. Again, I was moved to tears. (I really needed a "Use in case of feels tissue box!")      In short, don't let the title or what this book is about deter you from reading it. It may not be what you normally would read, but I kid you not if you are a reader, certain aspects of it will amaze you. My first Levithan read was filled with emotions and incredible writing and I promise that this won't be my last book by him. I am already absolutely smitten with him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How can you say that the cover is gross and then turn around and say you're okay with gay people?? That's a little hypocritical and honestly, I don't know why I just wasted time responding to such an ignorant post.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People have been saying that this book is only good for the gay community. I strongly disagree! I am straight and this book still taught be so much about life! I feel as though levithan is the savor of our genereation. He commicates that love is real, no matter who its with. Its just love. Raw, heartbreaking, beautiful love. Thank you david.
rockygirl1 More than 1 year ago
Confession time.  I still have yet to read a David Levithan novel.  Yes, I am hanging my head in shame.  What is wrong with me??? This was my first.  I don't know why I started with this one.  It was new and shiny.  I also will confess that I was a little nervous about the whole Greek chorus thing.  I mean come on… that is a little bit intimidating to go into a book knowing that is how the book is going to start.  Last confession.  I didn't just like this book, I LOVED it!!!! Seriously, this might be about a 6 on my 5.0 scale. Yep, it was that good.   I'm sure that this book will raise a few eyebrows and some people will look and just delete this review without even reading what it is about, and that is a shame, because truly, this book is about so much more than two boys kissing. There are so many stories weaved into the framework of Craig and Harry kissing.  We meet Peter and Neil who have been a couple for a while.  We meet Avery and Ryan who have just met and are dipping their toe into the world of dating.  And there is Cooper, who is alone.  Along the way we meet friends of the aforementioned people. We meet enemies. We hear the F word hurled at them. But through it all we see two boys kissing.  I followed all their stories.  Reading them and obsessing over them. Wondering what their parents, friends, neighbors were thinking.  And one of the most amazing parts of this novel is the writing itself.  I hadn't read more than about ten pages when I had to go and get my post-it notes.  Why? Because this was a library book, so I couldn't write in it or bend pages, and I HAD to start marking passages. When you start reading things like this: Not everything needs to be said at once. Sharing truth is not the kind of gift that comes in wrapping paper–ripped open once      and there, you’re done. No, this is a gift that must be unfolded. It is enough to start the telling. It’s enough to have the beginning and feel like it’s a beginning. Or this: We think of the boys we kissed, the boys we screwed, the boys we loved, the boys who didn’t love us back, the boys who were with us at the end, the boys who were with us beyond the end. Love is so painful, how could you ever wish it on anybody? And love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way? Amazing, right? Seriously, this book just blew me away.  I read it slower than I normally do because I was so focused on what was written. I was so absorbed in the verse I couldn't pull myself out of it to fly through the book.  What a great problem to have!  I will also say that this book was an inspiration to gay teens everywhere. What an amazing story and what an incredible book.  I just couldn't get enough of this story.  Amazing. To say this is a must read is such an understatement that its not even funny.  Definitely on my best of 2013.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't read the book yet but I am looking forward to. I just wanted to mention here that the fist two weeks (until September 10, 2013) the books is out the author will be donating 2 dollars of the proceeds to The Trevor Project. -DG
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is 50 years too late. Levithan speaks of what was, what is and what should be for young boys who become gay men. I could not read for very long without tears in my eyes. I was 13 years old when I knew. I was 70 years old when I finally said I am Gay. I lived at lot in those years to include being married 45 years. But not a day went by that I did not think of "it." It is my grand-childen who made me see it was OK to be gay. It was one special 17 year old high school senior who reminded me of me. The narrators of the book tell the story eloquently. Today people accept and understand. Giant steps have been taken. But there is still a lot that has to change. I was still afraid at 70. Just a little easier. I strongly recommend this book. Good luck and happiness to all the boys. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The storyline from the different perspectives of gay boys was really quite amazing and i grew to love every single chaacter, all of which were very well developed. One thing i think people should know before making haste judgement on this book based on the title is the book is not so much a story about two boys kissing as it is about the symbolism of each of the characters and the lives each of the teens that the chorus of gay men lost to aids compare their lives to and comment on how they made similar choices. It warmed my heart and really makes you take a moment to step back and appreciate the things and people in your life. My only criticism is that is was pricy considering that it was only 130ish pages but part of that goes to a good cause (the trevor project) so i suppose it sits fine with me. I would recommend it to everyone because even if you do not support homosexuality i think you can relate to bulling, discrimination, and other cricumstances these teens face, just on a depper level. Please read before judging, it truly is a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading the book Two Boys Kissing, and recommend the book to anyone who likes a love story. I would recommend this book to people that are 13 and older. My reasoning for recommending the book to this audience is, there is explicit language and actions throughout the entire book. Also for my reasoning, is because it has multiple themes and settings. I would definitely recommend this book to other people. In the book, the main idea of “two boys kissing” is Craig and Harry are trying to set the record for the world's longest kiss. Craig and Harry are no longer a couple at this point in time. Throughout the kiss the entire thing is being live streamed. Avery and Ryan have just met at a gay prom, and are both worried about what is going to happen next with their relationship. Peter and Neil are a couple that are watching the kiss on the live stream. Cooper is a boy that is by himself, and is at the point of not knowing what his next step in life should be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Molly_Ringle More than 1 year ago
How I loved this book! Didn't want to put it down, even though it's largely a "quiet" type of story; it's more full of thoughts and musings than dramatic moments--but there are certainly dramatic moments, and anyway I loved the whole thing. It follows a few days in the lives of several gay teenage boys, most of whom don't know each other, all living in the vicinity of an unnamed American city. Two of them are setting out to break the world record for longest continuous kiss, filmed and cheered on by their friends and the internet at large (and jeered at by idiots, because that's inescapable even in our enlightened era). Two of them (one of whom is trans) have just met and are in the tentative but entrancing phase of figuring each other out. Two of them have been boyfriends a while and are starting to feel the tedium of long-term relationships. And one, whom I want to hug and then give hours and hours of stern advice to, is in a bad place with his parents and can't find any meaning in internet hookups either, and hates everything including himself, for now. And the first-person-plural narrator of the whole thing is the generation of gay men who died of AIDS and are now watching all of this unfold. It's not as depressing as it sounds! Really. I mean, occasionally it is, but it's also occasionally funny, and frequently inspiring. Because as those nameless men keep trying to tell our struggling teens, life is already getting so much better for them. We have a long way to go before it's all the way better, but it helps to look at the progress in the last few decades, it really does. So yeah. One of those "I have more hope for the world now" books. And we can never have enough of those. Thank you, David Levithan!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your story is so amazing. Its so brilliant that you relized who you really were the way you did. I am a 14 year old pansexual girl who is questioning being gender non-confirming and I am so scared to come out. Its not the fear of being laughed at that worries me, its the fear of being forever alone. I am ambulaphobic witch means i have a fear of never finding love and story from people like you make me feel safe and like there is hope out there for a small but intencely involved member of the lgbtq+ community. I love you and all other people, een the haters. My beliefs are that haters only hate because there is nobody who genuinly loves them back. #theworldneedsmorelgbtqlove Thank you for sharing your story and to all other readers of this reply, comment above to #unicorncat0 and share your comments on this. PS, i love you
MichelleChung More than 1 year ago
I found out about this book pretty late, but it deserves thumbs up, a standing ovation, tears, love, and everything else. It was just beautiful, and books like this are so necessary today. We need them in this world. I'm so happy to have found this. I share it with so many people. I'm so proud of our society for actually making an LGBT book well-known enough to be recommended in casual conversation in the middle of Walmart!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
simply amazing
kimberlyfaye More than 1 year ago
“The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us had a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it. What we hoped, and what we found, was that the second sentence of the truth is always easier than the first, and the third sentence is even easier than that. Suddenly you are speaking the truth in paragraphs, in pages. The fear, the nervousness, is still there, but it is joined by a new confidence. All along, you've used the first sentence as a lock. But now you find that it's the key.” Every now and then I read a book that I just know will stick with me forever. When I find one of these special books, I want every person I know – and even ones I don't – to read it. That was definitely the case with Two Boys Kissing. This book was truly something special and I can't recommend it highly enough. “If you let the world in, you open yourself up to the world. Even if the world doesn't know that you're there.” I read the audiobook version, which I was pleasantly surprised to find was narrated by the author himself. The book itself was powerful, but having the author read his own words made it that much more so. There's something about listening to an author reading their own words and realizing how much of themselves they put into the characters and the story, that made this one even more powerful and special then it would have been with a different narrator. You could hear his passion for the story in each word he spoke. And those words? They were beautiful and honest. The only drawback of reading this one in audiobook format is that there's no way to highlight the beautiful passages... and there were a lot of them. Had I read this in eBook format, I'd have highlighted half the book. I had to go seek out quotes on Goodreads. “...he hopes that maybe it'll make people a little less scared of two boys kissing than they were before, and a little more welcoming to the idea that all people are, in fact, born equal, no matter who they kiss or screw, no matter what dreams they have or love they give.” Two Boys Kissing is inspired by a true story. Many of them, actually. While it's true the book mostly centers around Harry and Craig's endeavor to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss, there are several other characters whose stories are every bit as important to this book. Harry and Craig's bold gesture has a huge impact on these other characters who are attempting to navigate tricky situations on their own. “Love is so painful, how could you ever wish it on anybody? And love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way?” This book was gorgeous and thought-provoking. I know it will stick with me for a very, very long time. It moved me to tears, made me appreciate the struggle of my gay friends, and most of all, made me realize that while progress has undeniably been made, there's still so much more left to achieve. I've recently read that some parents are petitioning schools to remove this book from their libraries. Now, I'm not going to get on my soapbox on this, but all I can say is that I hope that while the parents aren't open-minded enough to give this book a shot, that the school officials will take a few hours and read this beautiful, powerful book and realize taking it out of libraries would do more harm than good, by far. “You can give words, but you can't take them. And when words are given, that is when they are shared. We remember what that was like. Words so real they were almost tangible. There are conversations you remember, for certain. But more than that, there is the sensation of conversation. You will remember that, even when the precise words begin to blur.” I wasn't sure how the Greek Chorus of gay men would work in this book. It took a little bit of time for me to fully embrace it, but it wasn't long before it became one of my favorite things about this book. Their voices were so honest and it was incredibly moving listening to their thoughts on the events taking place in current day, as compared to their struggles. I got entirely wrapped up in each individual character's story, though I don't think any moved me more than Cooper's. His voice – and the rest of the voices – were so authentic and believable. I've listened to friends talk about some of the same struggles and I think that's what made this book so personal to me. "We know that some of you are still scared. We know that some of you are still silent. Just because it's better now doesn't mean that it's always good.” There's not one thing I would change about this book, except to maybe make it longer. The world needs more books like this, more writers like David Levithan. This was an emotional and hopeful read. We've come a long way, but there's still so much further to come. “We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust. We make more than dust. That's all we ask of you. Make more than dust.”
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Talekyn More than 1 year ago
I was captivated from start to finish. I'm not sure any book I read in 2013 sucked me in so easily and kept me interested so thoroughly; Two Boys Kissing will definitely make my Top Five Reads in 2014. These statements all feel like hyperbole, a type of review I try very hard not to fall into but all three of them are true and honest in this case. I read the book in one sitting, fought back tears (some of sadness, some of rage, some of loss and some of happiness) throughout, and wished it hadn't ended so quickly. In two hundred pages, Levithan interweaves 8 complete stories and does justice to them all. All of the main characters are believable, authentic young men. Harry, Craig, Peter, Neil, Avery, Ryan, Tariq and Cooper are not the idealized Icons of gay teenagers we'd like to think exist but rather are the reality: each has his own personal hurdles to leap on the way to adulthood. The adults in the background likewise have their own struggles to address: some are accepting of their sons' homosexuality, some tacitly acknowledge it but would rather not discuss it, and some don't approve at all. Those who are not parents are also well-represented, some helpful and some not-so. We don't live in a perfect world where all parents love their children no matter what, and Levithan doesn't pretend we do. But he chooses, and most of his characters choose, to focus on hope rather than fear, and that's part of what makes this book so beautiful to read. Even at the darkest moments (and there are a few), there is always hope. The use of a Greek Chorus in the form of gay men who have died from AIDS is a bold touch for a YA book aimed at kids who may not even remember there was an AIDS Crisis in the gay community, and all kudos to Levithan for not only attempting it but succeeding. The Chorus gives us an omniscient narrator, which enables the author to move freely among the focal characters, but it also gives that omniscience a personality and voice that is not a distraction from the main action of the book. Also kudos to Levithan for not just focusing on CIS-gendered white gay boys. The inclusion of Tariq (whose recent victimization by gay-bashers inspires Harry and Craig to set this kissing record) and Avery (a transgendered boy) help the book to find its real emotional center. I can't imagine this story being told without them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The 'Greek Chorus' point-of-view is strange really, and just a little hard to get used to. There are a lot of 'we's in it. The story's great though! And the POV is fitting. As for the writing itself, it's extremely poetic. More so than then the other books by this author I've read, it isn't what I would have done but it makes for an extremely emotional tone which helps to carry the main purpose and argument of the story.
ReadingToEscape More than 1 year ago
This book is narrated by gay gays who have died from HIV and they tell three different stories. When I first started reading, I was struggling to stay with it because it didn't seem like my kind of book. Little did I know that just a mere 2 hours later I would be crying and thinking that was a great book! I think this book should be a must read. Even if the beginning is a little slow for you, keep going! I did and I don't regret it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldnt agree more
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This author sincerly knows how to write a book. Levithan gives me hope and really inspired me. This is not a book. Its a work of art. I support every word Levithan writes. Because of this book, i will read every other book he has written. There needs to be more authors like Levithan writing more books like Boy Meets Boy in this world. And goddammit, he makes me think my wish might just come true