Gay Teen Novel ‘Two Boys Kissing’ Makes National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Literature


The National Book Awards released its longlists today for Young People's Literature and Poetry.

Among those up for the award in Young People's Lit is David Levithan's gay teen novel Two Boys Kissing.

Levithan's novel interweaves the stories of a number of gay teens, foremost among them one couple who decides to break the world record for longest kiss.

Wrote the L.A. Times' Louis Bayard of the book:

Levithan interweaves all these players with surgical skill and with an unabashed attention to bodies. If the book's title doesn't get it banned from a thousand school libraries, its frankness will: "Peter lingers his hand down Neil's back, slips his fingers beneath his waistband, rests on the skin there, the heat. Neil moves in the opposite direction, his hand rising under the back of Peter's shirt, between his shoulder blades. … Neil touches the nape of his neck, then slowly retreats back down, fingernails raking skin…."

What sets this book apart from Levithan's previous work (including the charming "Will Grayson, Will Grayson," co-written by John Green) is its yearning for tragedy. For brooding over these youths is a Greek chorus of ghosts: the generation of gay men who lived and loved and died in the first onslaught of AIDS.

"We are your shadow uncles," they declare, "your angel godfathers, your mother's or your grandfather's best friend from college, the author of that book you found in the gay section of the library."

Among those longlisted in Poetry is Frank Bidart's Metaphysical Dog.

BidartTowleroad book critic Garth Greenwell praised the book in a review earlier this year.

For nearly half a century, Frank Bidart has been obsessed by a single theme. In this brilliant new collection, he calls it “hunger for the absolute”: our seemingly inescapable need for purity and perfection, for some significance that transcends the organic. Whether this hunger leads to philosophy or religion, politics or love or art, it both instills our lives with meaning and makes them intolerable.

…I’ve been reading Bidart for more than half my life, and with this new collection I feel again how much his work has become crucial to my sense not just of poetry but of my own "ordinary divided unsimple heart." Bidart’s work is one of the unfolding wonders of the literature of our time. Read this book.


  1. Joseph says

    If only I and my peers had had such a book to read when I was in my teens! What a different coming of age & coming out I would have had. But the ’60s were the beginning of it all and these societal changes take time.

    One touchstone of my generation (the first to face the ravage of AIDS) was Paul Monette’s BORROWED TIME. A chronicle of the early years of the AIDS epidemic before the virus was even identified, it captures all the frustration, fear & courage in confronting unknowns with deadly outcomes. I keep hoping to see this book turned into a movie, with one of our gifted LGBT screenwriters penning the screenplay.

  2. Gem flip says

    I’m about halfway through it on the bus this morning, when I just stared crying. I had to stop & compose myself. I wish I had a book like this when I was a youth.

  3. Brian says

    My dear friend Matty was one of the participants in the Guinness World Record attempt which helped serve as this book’s inspiration. I am so very proud of what he accomplished with that event and since.

  4. says

    I read this book the day it came out, nearly in one sitting. I found myself crying, too, Gem Flip, so often. So beautifully written. David Levithan is a pretty fantastic author. I wish when I was growing up that there were books like these…and nowadays there are so many young adult books with strong LGBT characters and themes.

  5. Keppler says

    Structurally, this was a very interesting novel. The use of the chorus as narrator was ingenious, allowing for a level of didacticism that would otherwise have irritated – especially a young adult. Its almost lyrical prose was mesmerizing. And yes, it made me cry – more than once.

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