I am thrilled after my brief departure into reviewing two “grown up” books in a row, to be firmly back in YA land with Boy Meets Boy and Two Boys Kissing, both by David Levithan. After reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Every Day, I had very high hopes for these books. All of those high hopes were actualized, but in very different ways for each book.
Boy Meets Boy is Levithan’s first novel. It’s a teenage romantic comedy about a sophomore named Paul with two twists. (1) Paul is gay. (2) Paul lives in a utopian town where everyone is accepted for who they are. Seriously, the homecoming queen is also the star quarterback, the Gay Straight Alliance was formed to teach straight kids how to dance, and the Boy Scout troop renamed themselves the “Joy Scouts” to distance themselves from the organization’s homophobia. It is quirky, hilarious, romantic, and (somehow) un-annoyingly optimistic. The book is full of moments I wished I could read out loud to someone, the most notable being when a fight is broken up by someone jumping between two boys and singing “If I Had a Hammer”.
Two Boys Kissing, written ten years after Levithan’s debut, is very different in terms of tone, structure, and narration. It centers around two former boyfriends who try to kiss each other for over 30 hours (with no bathroom breaks!) to beat the world record for longest kiss. It isn’t a simple story of two boys though. Instead the book features seven gay teens, including two boys who’ve been dating a year, a “closet case” with a secret life on the Internet, and a transgender teen exploring a new relationship. The most complicated character is the narrator, which is a Greek chorus of gay men who died in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
More and more I’ve begun making the distinction between books I enjoy as a reader and books I enjoy as a writer. As a reader, I fell in love with Boy Meets Boy, but as a writer I preferred Two Boys Kissing. As a human, who ultimately likes her books served with a strong side of optimism, I enjoyed both books equally.
Boy Meets Boy is definitely lighter, but contains a side story where Paul’s gay best friend has highly religious parents. Two Boys Kissing shows darker and more complicated upsets of homosexuality in today’s society: hate crimes, parental abandonment, and suicide. However both books are equally hopeful.
The first portrays the community we should (and could) be; a community we are closer to now than we were ten years ago (a point that is apparent in the differences between the each book’s cover). The unique narration of Two Boys Kissing, serves to highlight the incredible progress made in the last ten, twenty, thirty years.
I highly recommend reading both books. I’ve known for a few months that I would review the books together. If you haven’t already read Boy Meets Boy, I suggest reading the books together. They seem to be written in conversation. While much of this review, and the hype surrounding both books, focus on the fact the characters are gay both books are also just really well written stories with relatable characters, and funny/interesting insights about life. What more can you ask for from a book?