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TWO BOYS KISSING

It’s well-intentioned and inspiring, but it doesn't push any boundaries.

Gay past and gay present collide.

Right from the start readers will know something weird is going on with Levithan’s latest. The narrator(s) refers to themselves as “us,” and readers will soon deduce that it’s the Kushner-esque collective voice of a gay generation from decades before, one that was ravaged by AIDS, anger, politics and more. It’s through their lens that this story of seven boys from the present is told. The first two—whose activities are imparted in the work’s title—are Craig and Harry. They’re out to break the world’s kissing record (32 hours, 12 minutes and 9 seconds) to protest a hate crime enacted upon their friend. They’re not a couple anymore, and Craig still smarts from the breakup. A second pair—Peter and Neil—have been a couple for a while, but that doesn’t mean their relationship is perfect. Pink-haired trans Avery and blue-haired Ryan meet at an alternative LGBT prom, and sparks fly. All the while, Cooper, kicked out of his parents’ house and obsessed with gay-hookup apps, suffers alone. The story drifts back and forth and among these seven youth under the watchful, occasionally curmudgeonly voice of the past, which weighs down the narrative too much at times. The novel has genuine moments of insight and wisdom, but it feels calculated and lacks the spontaneity that made Levithan’s first two novels so magical. Still, fans of his earlier works will appreciate the familiar tone, characters and themes they’ve come to love over the years.

It’s well-intentioned and inspiring, but it doesn't push any boundaries. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-93190-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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