If I were to write a book I would want it to be this book. I’m serious, I don’t think I need to write a novel anymore because this is what I would want to have written. Maybe one day I will, but I don’t need to having read this. The number of times I cried on the T (from this book and the other bazillion things going on in my life) are uncountable. It was a daily occurrence and I finally had to stop reading it on the T so I’d stop freaking people out. This review does not do this book justice, you need to go read it to really see what I’m talking about.
Levithan’s inspiration for the novel comes from an actual event and he draws other ideas from the past few years which fed into the various story lines and created this masterpiece. I’ve not read anything by Levithan previously, but I do have Boy Meets Boy on my bookshelf. If any of his books are anything like this I’m glad I’ve got another to read. Although this is classified as young adult I think everyone needs to read this novel, there is something so raw and so emotionally wrenching about this novel and Levithan’s writing that it has to speak across so many demographics.
What got me most about this novel was the narration style. The book is narrated by ‘all the gays that’ve come before’ and although that might sound weird or impossible it worked amazingly. Levithan takes the omniscient narrator and gives it a specific voice: the voice of all gay men who came before, overwhelmingly from the AIDS generation, but really all gay men. And the reason this works is because there are four story lines, three of which merge and one, perhaps the most heartbreaking, which tangentially connects to the others.
I also really liked the way Levithan wrote about one little thing in life and expanded it to such an awe-inspiring force that I was in tears multiple times throughout the book. One example is,
“You can give words, but you can’t take them. And when words are given and received, that is when they are shared. We remember what that was like. Words so real they were almost tangible. There are conversations you remember, for certain. But more than that, there is the sensation of conversation. You will remember that, even when the precise words begin to blur. How you gave, how you received. How close you felt to this other person, how remarkable this closeness was. The sharing of the words becomes as important as the words themselves. The sensation stays with you, attaches you to the world.” (56)
Now clearly just one read isn’t enough to make most people think twice about this passage, but when taken into context with the rest of the novel and with how I view the world, this passage brought me to tears. Thinking about the grandiosity and the smallness of it all just sort of hit me over and over throughout this book. A friend’s wedding is coming up (quite a ways off) and it gave me many ideas of things to pull into my portion of the wedding. He had such a way with words and a way of getting into my head and twisting my thoughts and emotions to make me feel so many things.
Recommendation: Stop what you’re reading and go read this now. EVERYONE. This will be a book I return to in years to come.
Opening Line: “You can’t know what it is like for us now—you will always be one step behind.”
Closing Line: “Make more than dust.” (Whited out.)
Additional Quotes form Two Boys Kissing
“Love is so painful, how could you wish it on anybody? and love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way?” (9)
“They begin to make plans, and a plan. Plans are the things you are going to do at a precise time, while a plan is the more general idea of all the things you might do together. Plans are the coordinates; a plan is the entire map. Plans are the things you can discuss in that first nervous phone call. A plan is the thing that goes unsaid, but puts the hope in your voice nonetheless.” (29)
“Silence only harms when there are things that aren’t being said, or when there’s the fear that the well is empty and there’s nothing left to say.” (71)
“We think of ourselves as creatures marked by a particular intelligence. But one of our finest features is the inability of our expectation to truly simulate the experience we are expecting. Our anticipation of joy is never the same as joy. Our anticipation of pain is never the same as pain. Our anticipation of challenge is in no way the same experience as the challenge itself. If we could feel the things we fear ahead of time, we would be traumatized. So instead we venture out thinking we know how things will feel, but knowing nothing of how things will really feel.” (122)
“He is on the verge of finding that very hard truth—that it will never be complete, or feel complete. This is usually something you only have to learn once—that just like there is no such thing as forever, there is no such thing as total. When you’re in the thrall of your first love, the discovery feels like the breaking of all momentum, the undermining of all promise.” (181)