TWO BOYS KISSING
Reviewed by Graeme Aitken
This new novel presents a panorama of gay male youth today, unfolding numerous storylines, with a touching eloquence. But what elevates this novel into something extraordinary is an intriguing narrative device − a Greek chorus of ghosts, the generation lost to AIDS, also serve as narrator. They watch over the boys who came after them − commenting, reflecting, remembering, and marvelling at how much has changed…although not everything. Hatred, gay bashing, and the demons of the closet still persist. The main storyline is devoted to the two boys kissing of the title. They are Craig and Harry, ex-boyfriends, who have decided to try to break the world record for the longest kiss (32 hours, 12 minutes, 10 seconds). This challenge is not merely about cementing their place in the Guinness Book of Records but to highlight the recent gay-bashing of their friend Tariq. Other storylines include a fledgling romance between two boys, Ryan and Avery – although there is a twist, as Avery used to be a girl. Another couple, Peter and Neil, have been together for a year, but their relationship is complicated by the fact that Neil hasn’t come out to his parents. While Cooper is also in the closet and is only out online. When his father discovers his secret and reacts violently, Cooper flees his home. But he has nowhere to go. His online connections prove to be fraudulent and empty but have also handicapped his ability to connect in the real world. Utterly isolated and lost, he can see no future for himself. This is a novel primarily written for teenagers, but it possesses a substance and sophistication that will more than satisfy adult readers. An afterword by the author reveals not only some insider information on how the novel came to be written but also that it is grounded in real events. With a stream of glowing reviews and early award success already (it has been long-listed for the prestigious 2013 National Book Award Young People’s Literature), Two Boys Kissing seems destined to become a classic in its genre.