By David Levithan
‘Two Boys Kissing’ left me with a problem in that it was clearly written with a Young Adult audience in mind. This applies to the seven teenagers who are centrally featured but also to the up-to-date nature of the varied settings and even the central notion of a world-wide audience for this ‘kissing event’. As such, it is very different from many other ‘coming-out’ novels I have read going back to John Reid’s (Andrew Tobias) ‘The Best Little Boy in the World’ (1973) and David Rees’ ‘The Milkman’s on his Way’ published in 1982 in that it attempts to summate what has been experienced by GLBT youth in the intervening thirty-odd years while offering a commentary from those who went before them (especially those lost in the plague years).
It is different in content, form and structure which, apart from a little initial confusion, I eventually found apt, insightful and helpful in linking the various well-known struggles taking place around the central ‘event’. It is mechanically difficult to juggle the differing viewpoints, story-lines and changing use of person. Yet it all works with a quite powerful pacing through the 48 hours as each story-line works to a related conclusion. There is also no shortage of good writing, clear, emotional and often rhythmical.
It could be argued that there is simply too much in the book and that perhaps the author could have been more selective in reducing the number of characters and situations being dealt with. Certainly, there would be potential for this and I could easily imagine each of the threads as a separate written or visual work. Yet I don’t think this is necessarily so. I would guess that young readers/viewers today have an appetite for the kind of gradually unified fragmentation that is presented and that it could easily be converted into a visual format.
I am simply too old to guess what a Young Adult audience must think of it and I can only hope that they do find it engaging, useful and helpful. Certainly, this old coot found it interesting, entertaining and challenging and can only hope that it gets the widest possible audience amongst ALL young adults, gay, straight or making their minds up.