If you are like me and would rather watch a video review than read one, skip to the bottom. I got you covered.😉
What It's About
In response to a violent hate crime, Craig and Harry, two teenagers who used to be a couple, decide that they want to beat the world record for the longest kiss. During the length of the kiss (31+ hours) we explore Craig and Harry's relationship with each other while also following the relationships that some other boys in neighboring communities have with each other, with their parents and with themselves.
What We Thought
Overall, this book was sweet, important and heavy without being HEAVY. There are themes such as suicide, family strife, hate crimes and death from AIDS and those are some really hard topics, but they are handled in a way that they become part of the story without being THE story. Instead they are just a part of the complex tapestry of these young boys lives without completely defining them.
The narrator of the book is what interested us all the most and what drew us to wanting to read it- it was narrated by a Greek chorus of gay men who died during the AIDS epidemic. Each boys story is punctuated by these men sharing their thoughts, advice and experiences in a style akin to poetic prose. This form of narration really added to the beauty of the story for some members, and for others it was, though beautifully written, a bit too flowery and without the structure of chapters, it made the entire book feel like one long monologue.
The book was very short and shared the stories of seven boys. Because of this, we didn't get to know the characters exceptionally well and, at least I think that if the characters had been a bit more developed I would have enjoyed it more because I would have cared more about them. That being said, this book was written as a mere snapshot of these boys lives so I think we were really just meant to know them in those moments. As far as the characters go, the other thing that I was missing was connection between them. We could have taken out any of the characters other than Harry and Craig who were attempting the kiss and it wouldn't have changed the progression of the story at all. I'm currently reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman and my absolute favorite part of it is the way that Backman develops all of his characters SO WELL and then not only that, he connects them to each other in the most subtle and unexpected ways. There are threads woven all the way through and in the end, they are pulled together so seamlessly. This "flaw" with Two Boys Kissing may have gone unnoticed if I hadn't read Anxious People directly after, but because I did, I craved that connection that was suddenly obviously missing.
Regardless, I do think that it's a very important book to have in the world and I would recommend that everyone reads it just for their own education or if they know any gay or transgender boys to run out and get them a copy. It's not very often that LGBTQ people are portrayed this way - where they are doing normal things and having normal relationships and I think that it's really important for them to be able to see themselves in characters represented this way. If you are a parent or plan on being a parent one day, please read this book so that if one day, you are put into any of the situations these parents are put into, you know exactly how not to act (or act in the few cases where the parents are decent).
Also, the sharing of history of the gay men of past generations is so super important for everyone to know. I don't remember the AIDS epidemic per se because I was pretty young but I do remember how big of a deal HIV and AIDS were in the 90's and that's not to say that they aren't a big deal now, but a lot has changed in terms of the treatment and prevention. As far as I've seen, the newer generations know next to nothing about it and until the last few years, even I didn't know how poorly it was handled.
All in all, it was a 50/50 book for us. Half of us loved it and half of us liked it.
For October, we went with a "witchy" theme to celebrate the spooky season and we are reading The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. All I know is that it is a book about a real life witch trial and in the book, all the men on an island are killed during a storm and all the women who are left behind are accused of being witches because they do so well without the men and obviously women who can survive without men must be witches! This is going to be interesting.
Best Book Club Group Selfie!
Shanna reviews Two Boys Kissing in her September Wrap Up video
If you only want to hear about Two Boys Kissing, skip to 7:14 but I recommend that you watch the entire video and then subscribe to her channel and watch all of her videos!