Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan [LGBT April]

Two Boys Kissing coverTwo Boys Kissing by David Levithan 

Published August 27th 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers 

Goodreads description: New York Times  bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. 

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other

Confession time: I was actually not all that excited about this book once I learned the exact meaning/premise of  Two Boys Kissing. I am, in general, not a huge fan of world records. To a certain point, they are amusing. But mostly I just think they are pointless. So wen I found out that the book had boys going for the world record of longest kiss recorded (at 32 hours, 12 minutes and 10 seconds For some reason, they have to stand up the whole time. What about kissing means you have to stand up? I’m really confused about that point. People can kiss sitting down, obviously.), my interest level dropped considerably. Why would you want to kiss someone for so long? For your name to be in a big book and maybe you get some sense of achievement or recognition, but it just doesn’t seem that amazing to me. BUT I knew there was more to the story than just the kiss. I’ve seen some amazing reviews and for LGBT month, I knew this was one I should pick up. I’m glad I did, weird world record and all. AND that part of the story is based on actual events that happened in 2010, and I had never heard about it, but it was interesting to find out about after reading the book.

There is so much to say about this book and I don’t feel like I can do it justice at all. It was touching, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. I wanted to know more about the characters, I didn’t feel ready to say goodbye. I actually wasn’t completely sold on the chorus style narration, though I do think it got the point across and added a lot to the story, sometimes it felt distancing for me, which might have been on purpose. I wouldn’t say this is a favorite book, but I enjoyed it and appreciated it. It definitely made me cry on several occasions, but it also made me smile and want to hug it.

Since I don’t really know how to eloquently explain my feelings for this one, I’m going to share three quotes:

 “Love is so painful, how could you wish it on anybody? And love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way?”

“But does he see everything, or only what he wants to be seeing? This is always one of the greatest questions of love.”

“We wish we could show you the world as it sleeps. Then you’d never have any doubt about how similar, how trusting, how astounding and vulnerable we all are.”

And also direct you to three reviews that are better than mine:

DanielleChristinaJamie

And one confession for the road: I’m not actually a David Levithan fan. I’ve read Naomi & Ely, Nick & Norah and Every Day and while I liked certain aspects of the last two, I mainly think of them all as being kinda meh. But maybe I will try some of his other work at some point in the future, based on this read. If you’re interested in LGBT books, you should definitely check this one out!

Fighting Dreamer

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg [LGBT April]

Openly Straight coverOpenly Straight by Bill Konisberg
Goodreads | Website | Twitter
Release Date:May 28th 2013
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Series: none

 

 

Goodreads descriptionA funny, honest novel about being out, being proud . . . and being ready for something else.

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate breaking down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn’t even know that love is possible.

This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate being different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

 

I was pretty interested in Openly Straight when I saw the description for it when it came out, and I have been meaning to read it ever since. I even saw it at the library a few times and for some reason never picked it up. When I signed up for LGBT April, I knew it was the perfect book to read!

If you read the description, you saw that Rafe has been out since he was young and it’s become a major part of his identity, while he feels like it is overshadowing other interesting aspects. He wants to take a step back from that and be a person without one thing being the focus of his life. So he goes to an all-boys’s boarding school on the other side of the country and decides to not come out there. He just wants to be a boy and make friends and play sports.

I really enjoyed Openly Straight. It was funny, awkward, and endearing. It was heartwarming and wrenching. It made me smile like an idiot. It had good kissing scenes. Rafe always sounded like a real teen, and there were some smart, thoughtful conversations in the book that made me so happy, because teens definitely have those types of conversations.

Rafe is so lovely. I wanted to hug him a lot. He just wanted to be able to see different parts of himself and be free to explore things he couldn’t always experience as openly gay. I was frustrated for him, because it was dishonest and he knew that and had it pointed out to him several times, but he just wanted a chance for something different. I was waiting for the fallout, throughout the whole book. It actually ended up not being as intense as I expected, but it still happened in a believable way. It wasn’t too perfect, it did involve some mess, but it seemed to fit the story really well.

Openly Straight is a genuine look at how labels affect life, even if  they aren’t seen as a bad thing. I loved seeing how Rafe’s parents, friends, and community were supportive, sometimes too supportive by Rafe’s standards. I liked the looks back into his experiences and how they helped or frustrated him. I loved seeing him in his new element and navigating his new persona but also dealing with realistic peer pressures, and how he cared so much about what other people thought and had to deal with that. I liked Rafe’s writing and reading the teacher’s thoughts on his writing, too. That was a really interesting aspect, because you have to wonder how much work that has to be for the author, writing as a teen and as a teacher! I feel like Rafe and several other characters grew and learned a lot in this book.

4 star rating

 

Openly Straight was a fun read without being too light. I can see myself maybe reading it again at some point. I would definitely read other work by Bill Konisberg. I would recommend it to anyone wanting an enjoyable book with an important LGBT message about identity and acceptance!

Fighting Dreamer

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth [book review]

The Miseducation of Cameron Post coverThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: February 7th 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules

I chose The Miseducation of Cameron Post randomly (like I choose so many of my reads) because it was a really hot day and I was tired of looking at the library. I had no clue what it was about.

I am really not sure how to review this book, and I feel like I say that all the time lately, sorry. There were moments in this book that I really enjoyed, and there were moments that were angering and painful. I felt so much for Cameron, and I was extremely invested in her story. I didn’t love the book, but I think it was important.

I liked Cameron Post as a character. She is dealing with the loss of her parents, the introduction of a new family system, the development of her personality and sexuality, and school and friends all at the same time. When her parents die, she’s relieved because they won’t know she likes girls. After that, she lives with her aunt and her grandmother. She kind of gets away with a lot for a while. She hangs out with a group of guys, she swims and she runs track. She watches tons of movies and connects with a girl from out of state who kind of helps her learn about certain things.

Her aunt, her main legal guadian, is extremely religious. She makes Cameron go to church with her, which leads to even more confusion and a lot of guilt. Cameron has to worry about people finding out about how she feels and not knowing if it’s right or wrong. She goes through different stages in dealing with her own acceptance of her sexuality.

Cameron faces some really heartbreaking things, and I just wanted to hug her. She’s already lost her parents, and then she has to face a lot of shit with her family and friends. She definitely gets an ugly glimpse of how awful some Christians can be about anything different, which is really disgusting. Cameron does learn a lot about herself and I liked learning with her. She was such a great character. The book has an open ending, and while I would have loved to know more about Cameron’s life, I think it fit the book pretty well.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a haunting look at how GLBT/LGBT teens can be treated. It is upsetting and uplifting. There were parts I enjoyed and parts that were difficult to push through. It wasn’t exactly an enjoyable read for me overall, but I’m glad I read it! I definitely think it’s a worth a read. I wouldn’t really want to read it again, but I’d happily read anything else by Emily M. Danforth in the future. You should check out The Miseducation of Cameron Post if you like a realistic look of what GLBT (or LGBT?) teens deal with in intolerant families and religions.

Check out Emily M. Danforth‘s website and twitter!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz [book review]

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: February 21st 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be

I went into Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe with limited knowledge. I knew it was about friendship and GLBT subjects. I had seen some good things about it and I wanted another book for Bout of Books so I picked it up.

Aristotle or Ari is 15 and unhappy. He lives in El Paso, Texas. He is Mexican American. He speaks English and Spanish. It’s 1987. He doesn’t have many friends. He meets Dante, who also does not have many friends. They become friends and grow and learn things.

I will be honest: I almost didn’t finish this book. There was something about the writing and the beginning felt so slow to me. I’m so glad I didn’t stop reading it, because while it’s not a favorite, I really enjoyed it! It took me a while to get into the flow of Ari’s head and for me the writing didn’t feel lyrical (as the description states). Once I got used to the voice, I got more into the story and it flowed a lot quicker, which made me more interested in what was happening.

The whole story is in Ari’s point of view and it’s first person. Ari is lost, lonely, and confused. In other words, he’s a typical teenager. He has issues with his father, a quiet Vietnam vet with his own problems. His mother is always worried about him and he wants space. He misses a brother he doesn’t know. A lot of the story focuses on his relationship with his father and brother. I loved seeing how much his father loved him even though it was an obvious struggle for him to be open about his experiences and feelings. When they do open up to each other and talk about things, it’s so lovely and heartwarming. I liked Ari’s mom, too. She is a teacher and she has already lost a son to prison, so she’s worried about Ari’s teenage angst and wants the best for him. Ari’s relationship with her was reluctantly sweet and I loved it.

Dante is a fun character. He’s smart and he’s freer and more open about how he feels. I love that at first Ari wasn’t sure if the friendship was worth it, because he’s so sour. Dante is just a positive and hopeful person, which is refreshing. He’s crazy about his parents, which is so nice. He’s different and he knows he’s different. I like that Ari knows that Dante is different and while he thinks about it, it never gives him pause. I enjoyed when Dante was open about anything awkward and it kind of weirded Ari out.

Aristotle and Dante together are fun. Their story developed a bit differently than I expected. There’s a big emphasis on friendship, and I loved their friendship! There were a few things that felt off to me. I liked what happened in the end, but what led up to the ending was kind of weird to me. I also wanted a bit more from the ending, but it still left me happy!

The book does deal with difficult subjects and I think it deals with them very well. Fitting in, family, sexuality, growing up, and so much more.  It was heartwarming and heartwrenching. I had a few issues, but it left me feeling warm and fuzzy!

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

For a book I almost didn’t finish, I really enjoyed Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I had issues with pacing and a few other details, but overall I think it was a lovely book. I don’t see it being a book I’d read again, but I definitely think it’s a book worth reading! If you like discovery, growth, well-written families, friends and more, you will probably enjoy this book. I think most people will enjoy it!

You can learn more about Benjamin Alire Sáenz here!