“The First Ripple,” the Importance of a Kiss in Two Boys Kissing and Beyond
Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press: Day 5
A kiss can lead to so many unexpected things…especially one that takes place under the mistletoe. Join authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles as they explore the most tantalizing literary kisses and their lasting impact in books in this new series, Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press. Every day from December 4th to December 8th, HEA USA Today, The Book Smugglers, LGBTQ Reads, All About Romance, and The Mary Sue will feature a new article from each author of the LGBTQ+ holiday themed collection, If the Fates Allow (out now from Interlude Press).
Who doesn’t love a good kiss? First kisses, kisses under fireworks, a familiar peck before leaving for the day, a kiss of good luck or Crash Davis’ favorite in Bull Durham—long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.
“Oh my,” indeed.
In romance, a first kiss marks a new moment in the relationship. As readers, we gasp. We clutch our shirt in our fist. We might shed a tear, or simply smile to ourselves and murmur, “Finally.” It’s the moment the couple stands together and tosses a pebble into the story. The kiss lands, and then… and then … that’s when it really gets good.
As necessary and anticipated and exciting those kisses are to read—and to write—it’s really the fallout that sticks with you, isn’t it? The ripples of the millpond that move the whole story forward. Even if the entire book ends with a kiss, we sit for moments after closing its pages, and imagine the ripples of time and challenge and love that will carry that couple back to the shore. When considering great literary kisses and their universal rippling effect, I can’t fathom a more meaningful kiss than the book-long marathon smooch in David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing.
Our central characters are Harry and Craig, a former couple that decide to draw attention to the inequality, the abuse, the chastisement members of the LGBTQ community experience by participating in a marathon kiss. Their friend Tariq has been a recent hate crime victim.
It is time to speak up, but words are so often drowned out.
To make sure they are heard, the kiss needs to be a record-breaker—one that lasts, at minimum, thirty-two hours, twelve minutes, and ten seconds—and it will be held in on the front lawn of their school. Levithan tells the story even more powerfully through a Greek chorus narrator: the previous generations of AIDs victims who not only watch, but bring depth of meaning to the kiss—and its following ripples.
Harry and Craig are going to bring attention to themselves through this kiss, and to others like them. Even though they are no longer a romantic couple, they are important to one another and happily unite for this cause. During their preparations, outside of their view, blue-haired Ryan and pink-haired, trans Avery meet for the first time and connect in a canoe, slowly rowing down a peaceful river. Neil and Peter, a couple of one year, play video games. Cooper connects to anonymous men and boys through online chatrooms.
But where the pebble will hit, where Harry and Craig stand and commit to a thirty-two-hour lip lock, Tariq is there with cameras rolling, friends Rachel and Smita are there for emotional support, along with Harry’s parents. Outside of this space, no one knows a pebble is about to drop. And inside it, they have no idea how—or if—it will actually make a difference. Pushing questions aside, they smile, step together and … *gasp* …
And just like that, the ripples begin. The narrators remind us of the power of a kiss. Kisses that for them had been secrets. And because of the secret, because of the approval they could have if the right person saw them, or the destruction if the wrong person saw them, the chorus’ kisses were seismic. “Two boys kissing,” they say. “You know what that means.”
Harry and Craig find out. Support comes via the internet and local friends. Bullying comes from same. Families both unite and tear at the seams, all because of two boys kissing. But, like any good kiss—even one that lasts for one hundred thirty-two pages—ripples swell from the meeting of these two boys’ lips.
Ryan and Avery have a kiss of their own, and are met by bullies.
Neil and Peter kiss casually, as a long-term couple does. They try their own marathon kiss, like Harry and Craig on the video they’re watching. It doesn’t work, but they do.
From this one kiss, teens come out to their families. Fists are thrown and names are called. A lost boy and a stranger kiss and fondle with no meaning and no connection. Hours and hours pass until we get to the last minutes of the thirty-two hours. And at the end, oh … at the end.
Well. I can’t tell you that. But, if we didn’t know before, we now know what two boys kissing means. Familiar kisses, new kisses, healing kisses, and kisses that say “help me,” all form ripples in our lives and the lives of those who hate us, who love us, who watch us—just as they did with the men who tell us this story, whose ripples were cut short by disease and societal neglect. It’s a seismic kiss, one that changes the characters, and if they’re paying attention, the reader.
Thanks to my love of this kiss, this book, Two Boys Kissing gets a passing nod in my short story, “Shelved,” part of the holiday anthology If the Fates Allow. In the midst of a romantic librarian’s matchmaking, we see a glimpse not only of two boys kissing, but of more than one unexpected romance, of softened hearts, and of fulfilled wishes. The power of a kiss—with or without mistletoe.
About If Fates Allow, out now from Interlude Press: During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles share their stories about the magic of the season.
About Lynn Charles’ story, Shelved: When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.
About the author: Lynn Charles is an author of queer contemporary romance novels. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and daughter where a blind dog and his guardian cat rule the roost. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education, worked at her county library, and absolutely never judged you for what books you checked out. Her novels Chef’s Table (2014), Black Dust (2016)—a finalist for the Foreword Review INDIES Award in Romance, and Beneath the Stars (2017), can be found at Interlude Press, and most online book retailers.
(image: Interlude Press)
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