Due to jet lag I’ve just woken up from 9ish hours of sleep lasting from 3 in the afternoon till around now, which is like midnight.
I had a really intense dream though. The dream felt like it spanned over several years instead of just a few hours.
I was enrolled in this fancy college in America, like so fancy that there were a bunch of aristocrats and celebrities enrolled there as well. I was in this group of friends that included Léa Seydoux, her boyfriend who was called something like Tom Monitor (???) and another guy called something like Marmadine (this was butchered from Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine from Orlando). Tom and Marmadine were both from aristocratic families and they wore suits all the time at school.
Tom and Léa were dating, so I guess that left a lot of time for me and Marmadine. In hindsight now I remember Marmadine looking like this one opera singer who once visited my previous school. Marmadine was also a pretty emotional guy, so I think the association with the opera singer kind of strengthened the idea in my head that he was pretty theatrical. Tom and Léa would joke that Marmadine and I should get together, and I think Marmadine liked me but I liked Léa. (I think she’s real pretty and a great actress, but I’d never previously liked her in the same way as I liked her in the dream. I think this is a result of me having looked at this really entrancing photoset of her from Inglorious Basterds before I fell asleep though)
I don’t actually remember spending much time with Léa, I just remember liking her a lot. And I think I liked Tom too as a friend but I didn’t care too much about him, as in I cared more about getting Léa to like me than I did about the friendship commandment that’s like thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s girlfriend or whatever.
But I didn’t spend as much time with Marmadine as I should have, because I was too busy thinking about Léa. Like I said, he was a pretty emotional guy and I think he was having a lot of personal problems. At dinners with the four of us, he would start crying about something and I’d try to get him to tell me, but he’d only nod or shake his head. I remember this happening twice in my dream and both times I actually carried him (?!) all the way to the bedroom in my house (we were back in Malaysia now ?) and I put him on the side of the bed where my little sister usually sleeps. And I remember tending to him like I would tend to my sister if she were crying, speaking in a real tender voice and getting him water and stuff. He was dealing with some big problems though, something about his family I think, and he was planning on running away.
And then… I don’t remember anything after that, except this one bit, from a different dream I think, where I was in a food court and I suddenly started seeing all these friends from my secondary school, people I hadn’t spoken to in over a year.
people are always nicer to you when you’re leaving this is a fact that i am thankful for because it makes leaving so much nicer and lighter
even if so many things before were bad, the goodness experienced at the very end makes everything seem pretty okay again
Two Boys Kissing is so important to me because it’s one of the first queer narratives (well okay there are several narratives in the book) that I could really really believe in. I don’t really think knowing the events of the book will “spoil” much for people, but I’ll try to make this as spoiler-free as possible anyway.
I don’t know a lot of people who are so relentless in their pursuit of trying to understand love as David Levithan is. He explores as many facets of love as there are characters in his books, yet all of these characters and all of the ways they love are so relatable. And I think that’s his biggest achievement: he manages to make us relate to all kinds of love, all kinds of people.
I haven’t read/watched as many queer narratives as I have straight ones, but David Levithan writes about queer experiences (in particular gay experiences) in a more honest and generous way than a lot of other authors/scriptwriters I know. He doesn’t dramatise it or sexualise it. And he shows that there isn’t one gay narrative. Typical straight narratives often have the kiss as the climactic point, but David Levithan fucks that up and makes the whole storyline a kiss. How are your heteronormative expectations of romance going to help you now? Gay relationships can be just as complex as—even more so than—straight relationships, because, surprise, in the end it’s still about people learning how to love each other. He gives you all the corny ass romcom clichés. Some lines and scenes in the book give me secondhand embarrassment but in the best way possible. He also gives you a lot of heavy stuff, so heavy that sometimes I needed to put the book down and take a break. There is more to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights than equal marriage. There is illness and homelessness and violence. But all of it is real. All of it is very, very real and he makes sure you know this.
Another thing I really enjoyed about Two Boys Kissing and that made it stand out from most books I’ve read is that it is aware that we are living in a digital age, and it’s aware that it’s changing how we view reality, love and ourselves. In a lot of other books, the characters seem to live in this alternate universe where they only pick up a phone to call/text someone or they only get on the Internet to look something up, like, wtf. They seem completely detached from the technology they use. In Two Boys Kissing, characters tumble out of bed and go straight to their computer. They think of getting their phone before they think of getting food. They talk to ten strangers at once and don’t talk to their parents at all. The impact of the widespread use of technology isn’t the central theme to the book, but I think it’s so important that people recognise the impact at all, especially on young people, and that they portray it in an honest way. David Levithan does this and he’s probably the only YA writer I know who does.
He expresses so much hope and love for the future generation and it reminds me all over again what the point of YA fiction is. The future is so important, young people are so important. It is so important that we show young people that we believe in them and that we know they have the ability to be better than us. David Levithan does this. He’s not condescending and his narrators aren’t condescending. At a heartbreaking point in the book when a character seems on the edge of despair and wonders what the point of anything is, the narrators tell us, “We could tell him, but he has to figure it out for himself.” There is no easy break for anyone. There is no deus ex machina. He does not lead you to expect the unexpected, because he knows life isn’t easy. But he makes you continue hoping (and hoping is I think different from expecting the unexpected) because you love these people.
Of course this is a book that predominantly features white men. I could wish that David Levithan didn’t make that “white girl” reference seeing that most of his characters are white guys anyway and that there was some kind of recognition for women and non-US people who died of AIDS. But it is so passionate about the story of queer young men in America, and it is so relatable, so I think I’ll let it slide. I still love this book and I still think everyone should read it.
I am so happy that a book like this exists on YA bookshelves. I aspire to have the same relentless hope and generosity and love David Levithan has for young people. Please go read it right now. Thank you. The end.