Outside their high school, two boys—armed with their friends, some sympathetic teachers and a carefully devised plan—start to kiss. Their goal? To break the world record for longest kiss, clocking in at 32 hours, 12 minutes and 10 seconds. Craig and Harry, the two boys in question, used to be a couple. Now, though, they are aiming to break this specific record as friends, both to honor their mutual friend Tariq, who has recently been the victim of gay bashing, and, as Craig eventually comes to realize, to honor the sheer joy of being and feeling alive.

Craig and Harry’s story is interspersed with those of other boys—kissing, wanting to be kissed or being terrified to kiss. Neil and Peter have been a couple long enough that dating no longer feels like dating, but Neil’s parents refuse to acknowledge that Peter is his boyfriend. Avery and Ryan, who just met at a regional gay prom, are tentatively exploring their new feelings for each other, both hesitant to reveal too much of themselves. And Cooper, after being caught cruising gay sex sites by his father, runs away from his parents’ anger, fear and rejection—but to what?

Levithan’s powerful, multifaceted novel explores just how far things have come for many gay teens—and how far things still need to go. The most poignant aspect of Two Boys Kissing is its narrator—or rather, narrators, as the stories are told by a Greek chorus composed of the generation of gay men who lost their lives to AIDS. These narrators mourn the all-too-familiar scenes of violence and despair, and marvel at the freedom and acceptance they could only have imagined.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with David Levithan for Two Boys Kissing.

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