After Tariq is beaten for being gay, Craig comes up with an idea, and his ex-boyfriend Harry is the only one who can help. Craig wants them to break the world record for kissing.
Tariq is filming and live-streaming it from multiple angles, so no one can question it. They’re doing it in public-- on the lawn of the high school.
We also have other stories woven through-- Peter and Neil, who live a few towns over and have been dating for over a year, Avery and Ryan, who meet at a gay prom the night before the kiss begins, and Cooper, who is closeted and struggling when his parents find out.
The kiss itself is the central plot-point, but what I found most powerful about the book is the narrator-- a generalized “we” of the gay men who died of AIDS in the 70s/80s. It was devastating and made me unexpectedly sob. I wonder if teens will find it as moving as I did, as they leave a lot unexplained. They mention how no one cared until a movie star and teenage hemophiliac died. When talking about the hate and violence, they mention the 19-year-old strung up along the highway. These are small, passing references to things I know and remember. Ok, I don’t remember Rock Hudson dying and he never meant much to me, but I do remember Ryan White. I remember his advocacy and his death. I most definitely remember Matthew Shepard's murder. I know what a huge effing dealPhiladelphia was when it came out. Do teens? And this isn’t to say they won’t “get” the book, or enjoy it, but just that the emotional impact readers of a certain age are getting won’t transfer over.
I love love love love that there’s a trans character. I love that while it creates fear and uncertainty in his life (well, I don’t love that bit, but it’s realistic) it’s not a big deal for the narrators. They never question that Avery is a boy, that he’s a gay boy. They just feel for him that much more because he’s carrying around that much more. Handled so well.
And, let’s just talk about the cover, shall we?
Two boys kissing. You know what this means.
For us, it was a secret gesture. Secret because we were afraid. Secret because we were ashamed. Secret because it was story that nobody was telling.
But what power it had. Whether we cloaked it in the guise of You be the boy and I’ll be the girl, or whether we defiantly called it by its name, when we kissed, we know how powerful it was. Our kisses were seismic. When seen by the wrong person, they could destroy us. When shared with the right person, they had the power of confirmation, the force of destiny.
If you put enough closets together, you have enough space for a room. If you put enough rooms together, you have space for a house. If you put enough houses together, you have space for a town, then a city, then a nation, then a world.
We knew the private power of our kisses. Then came the first time we were witnesses, the first time we saw it happen out in the open. For some of us, it was before we ourselves had ever been kissed. We fled our towns, came to the city, and there on the streets we saw two boys kissing for the first time. And the power now what the power of possibility. Over time, it wasn’t just on the street or in the clubs or at the parties we threw. It was in the newspaper. On television. In movies. Every time we saw two boys kissing like that, the power grew…
Every time two boys kiss, it opens up the world a little more. Your world. The world we left. The world we left you.
And now there are two boys kissing on the cover of a major release book aimed at teens.
Book Provided by... my local library
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