Two Boys Kissing

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Two Boys Kissing Book Poster Image
Poignant tale of several gay teens and record-breaking kiss.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will absorb information about the AIDS epidemic, as well as symptoms of the disease, and the evolution of treatment and potential outcomes for people living with HIV. The novel also quotes the writings of Walt Whitman, and relates a bit of information about Oscar Wilde.

Positive Messages

Two Boys Kissing offers the message to gay teens that they are not alone. The most essential takeaway, however, comes from Harry's dad's revelation about the kiss: "Here, he thinks, is the meaning of everything." The father realizes that the superior greatness and power of love -- familial love, romantic love, friendship -- surpasses all other things.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are some unfortunately unsupportive adults in the novel, but Harry's parents set an encouraging example as parents who love, appreciate, and admire their gay son. The teen kissers, Harry and Craig, show remarkable courage and commitment, even when they're bullied and insulted. They find a way to turn their friend Tariq's pain into a beautiful message of love and inner strength.


There are a couple of violent incidents in Two Boys Kissing, both very disturbing. In one, a homophobic father beats his son. In another, a gang of vicious bullies beat and severely injure a young man on a public street.


Readers know that one character is heavily involved in sexual online chatting, including suggestive, but not explicit, language about what one person wants to do to another. A teen makes a date with a young man he meets online; they kiss passionately and touch through their clothes. The omniscient narrators talk about "screwing." Harry becomes aroused briefly during the kiss. Other couples kiss and holds hands.


"F--k" is used once in anger. Several scenes include hate speech, where gay teens are called "faggot." A father calls his son a "whore."


Name brands include Diet Dr. Pepper, Binaca, McDonald's, Starbucks, Jack Daniels, Yahoo!, and iPod, Coke, Jack Daniels.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A teen and his adult date drink Jack (Daniels) and Coke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that David Levithan's young adult novel Two Boys Kissing weaves together events that occur in the lives of several gay teens while two former lovers attempt to break the world's record for the longest kiss. The book is narrated by omniccient spirits of gay ancestors from different generations, including many who died of AIDS. Characters experience intense emotions of love, discovery, pain, fear, and self-loathing. A couple of disturbing, violent scenes include child abuse and a hate crime. There's also some suggestive "sexting," descriptions of sexual arousal, and passionate kissing. "F--k" is used in anger once, and hateful anti-gay language ("faggot," "whore") is used several times.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytobier February 7, 2016

Not what I expected

I expected this to be a light and fluffy beach read- boy, was I wrong. This book made me cry and think. Though there's nothing especially explicit in the w... Continue reading
Adult Written byA.Nony.Mous June 9, 2015

Love It!

I think that David Levithan's story was heartwarming and perfect for 11 year olds. There is minimal sexual actions, and swearing that's not even notic... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byRyan O. April 25, 2014

A New Kind of Story

its about a teenager/s/ who happen to be gay if that is not appropite for u dont read it but it is amazing
Teen, 15 years old Written byQuinn_ February 22, 2021
This is a very good story, narrated by a group of men who died from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This was a little hard to understand at first, but really added to to... Continue reading

What's the story?

The omniscient spirits of gay ancestors narrate this story that looks at the lives of several gay teens during a few days leading up to and including two boys' attempt to break the world's record for the longest kiss. A range of lives and experiences are explored: the nerves and thrill of first love, the self-loathing of a boy who suffers his parents' contempt, the coldness of family members who won't acknowledge their son's sexual orientation, the beautiful bond between friends and family members with open hearts. Some characters' lives are intertwined with the TWO BOYS KISSING -- including a friend who was the victim of a hate crime -- while others are unaware of them, but all exist in an evolving world where readers are reminded there is much more hope today than existed for previous generations.

Is it any good?

David Levithan writes with heartbreaking sensitivity about the poignant struggle of gay teens to secure love and acceptance in a society where they still often feel "other." This author has a powerful understanding of the emotions of young people who live on the edges; here, he renders well-formed, relatable characters whose various experiences are further illuminated by the context offered by the gay ancestors/narrators. This is at once a beautifully written novel about some moving modern-day characters, and an eloquent comment on the current evolutionary stage of society's treatment of gay youth.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how things have changed for gay youth in the past few decades. Is it easier now to be an openly gay teen? Does having gay characters more commonly appear in books and TV shows help increase tolerance?

  • Discuss the part the Internet plays in spreading Craig and Harry's message, and the danger it poses for Cooper.

  • Do some online research and learn about the real men (Matty Dale and Bobby Canciello) who inspired David Levithan to invent a story about a record-breaking kiss.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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