I read this book in one sitting last Sunday and turned the last page in awe at this powerful narrative.
At the core of this story two young boys stand kissing to beat a world record for the longest kiss (32 hours, 12 minutes, and 9 seconds.) Circling around them in this patchworked, yet seamless, structure are two boys falling in love, and another boy searching and yearning for it, perhaps, misunderstanding its roots or its potential as he explores his sexuality. The narrators? A greek chorus of gay men lost to the AIDS epidemic. (Genius much?)
I loved it.
Levithan writes about relationships as few can. The heart-pounding newness of meeting someone for the first time and, both, the familiarity and strangeness of being with someone you knew and loved once. The way two people discover one another, what is revealed when we give ourselves to someone else and the surprise, the pain, the beauty of the many ways a gift like that can be received. As well as the fumbling, desperate, complicated, beautiful, terrible ways we struggle to love ourselves, our children, the people who brought us into this world, or the people who threaten to take us out.
While everything points towards this book being about two boys kissing, at its ‘heart’, this is a book about love. About what it was and could have been for a generation of men lost, what it can be, and, most importantly, what it is, right now, today, for two boys, for two people, for all of us. Said best here by Levithan:
Love is so painful, how could you wish it on anybody? And love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way?