New York Times bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.
While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.
This book featured on my hotly anticipated books of 2014 post that came back in January even though I have had the American edition he gave to me sat on my shelf since my breakfast date with David back in October. (A story for another day!) This book intimidated me, partly for it being a David Levithan book and partly because of the great stir this book has caused among bookish types across the world. Before I had even managed to pick it up, there was a great weight on this book, a great amount of pressure and hype to live up to. This book was already so important to me and I hadn’t even opened it up yet. I begin the first lines and I am taken back to the Levithan event held by Waterstones Piccadilly back in October. He read from the opening of this book and I sat in my chair (all on my lonesome because George grew balls and went to an event alone) and cried. Suddenly I am cupped in the beautiful words that David is putting on the page and rocked into a tearful opening. I reached page 12 and I had already cried twice.
“You’ll miss him stealing the sheets. Do not ignore these things.”
I think of my boyfriend and I weep with how much I love and care for him. It might not be the intended reaction but that’s what it calls to mind.
The book continues and we dive into the multiple story arcs of Harry, Craig, Cooper, Avery, Ryan, Neil, and Peter, and of course the multiple lives of the chorus of the lost that narrate this 208 page (256 if you have the UK edition) masterpiece. Each of these characters are so much more than names on a page. Each and every one of them have their own nuances and quirks that transform them into people.
All of these people became so important to me over the book that it was incredibly hard to let them go. I finished the book over a week ago and I have still not stopped thinking about them. I wonder how they are. I wonder what they are doing, where they have gone. The shipper in me roots for Harry and Craig as a couple, even though it’s completely not the point of their story. I hope for Craig’s life with his family. I hope for the two of them to survive, even if it is just as friends. I hope for Peter and Neil to talk to each other and to stay together. I hope for Avery to flourish and to become everything he knows he is. I want Ryan to be okay and I want Avery to help him be okay. I want Cooper to survive. I so desperately want Cooper to survive. As the voices will echo in the book, too many have been lost. Because Cooper isn’t just a character on a page. In case you can’t quite see where I am going with this, Cooper is every lost LGBT soul who has been bullied or tortured to death. He represents each and every one of them and the groups of humans who did nothing to help.
These characters are important. This book is important and apart from being beautifully written, it truly encompasses what it means to be gay in all of its varying forms. It shows the relationships that have been, the relationships that are and the relationships that will be. It shows individual struggle and a triumph of love and friendship. It shows solidarity and a great many other things. I could go on with this review forever but I am writing it in a Costa and my tears are fogging up my glasses. I’m getting looks and it’s becoming rather embarrassing.
To really know this book, you have to read it and I highly recommend that you do. I have a great many issues with the cover change from the US to the UK but this is not the place for such rants. No. This is a place for me to praise what is a masterpiece of fiction and a truly important book for everyone. Whether you be gay, straight, bi, thai, whatever you are you simply must read this book. It is truly brilliant.