Will Grayson, Will Grayson

When I was little, my dad used to tel me, “Will, you can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.”  Those seemed like a reasonably astute observation to me when I was eight, but it turns out to be incorrect on a few levels.  To begin with, you cannot possibly pick your friends, or else I never would have ended up with Tiny Cooper.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
And thus begins Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.  Back in August 2012, I came across a news story on NPR about the 100-Best Ever Teen Novels.  NPR began the discussion by saying:  

It’s almost a cliche at this point to say that teen fiction isn’t just for teens anymore. Just last year, the Association of American Publishers ranked Children’s/Young Adult books as the single fastest-growing publishing category.

It’s true since Harry Potter came out, more and more teens are getting into reading and more and more adults are also reading these same books.  I read the Hunger Games trilogy (#2 on the list) and really enjoyed it, and last night I finished Will Grayson, Will Grayson (#34 on the list and the one I decided to buy immediately but just got the chance to read).  By the way, To Kill a Mockingbird was number three on the list, but it should have been number one because I think it is one of the greatest books ever written, young adult or adult.  Harry Potter was number one, and I can understand it only because so many kids read them and is a major reason for the teen novel boom. 
Enough about other teen novels, I really want to discuss in this post the novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  Will Grayson, Will Grayson is collaboration between John Green and David Levithan.  In designing the plot for the book, the two authors decided to split it evenly in half. John Green wrote all the odd-numbered chapters while David Levithan wrote all the even-numbered chapters. This also held true for the main characters’ names, with Levithan choosing the given name and Green the surname. The only plot they decided on together was the fact that the two characters would meet at some point in the novel and that their meeting would have a tremendous effect on their lives. After this decision, they separately wrote the first three chapters for their half and then shared them with each other. After sharing, they then “knew immediately it was going to work”, as stated by Levithan.
Green’s Will is a straight kid with a chip on his shoulder with a flamboyant gay best friend named Tiny Cooper. The other Will is gay and struggles with depression.  One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.  
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans. Will Grayson, Will Grayson debuted at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s chapter books, the first book starring gay characters ever to appear on the list.
It’s hard to explain exactly why this book works so well, but a big part of it is the cynicism of the two Will Graysons. Both characters are so jaded that it balances Tiny’s optimism and enthusiasm. Without that balance the story would have felt like getting punched in the face by sunshine every time Tiny spoke, but it never feels that way. Instead Tiny is the anomaly. He’s the exception to the sarcastic rule and because of that it’s so refreshing for everyone in the story to have someone in their life that’s encouraging and joyful about life, despite whatever hardships he’s going through.
At first I didn’t love the second Will Grayson’s chapters. His whole section is written only in lowercase and that drove me nuts, but I got used to it. Levithan wrote that the reason for the lack of capitalization is because the second Will Grayson sees himself as a lowercase person.  He is so pessimistic and kind of mean, but he grows on you. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I began to enjoy the 2nd Will’s story so much more after Tiny becomes a part of it. You quickly realize that Tiny brings out the best in almost everyone.
The first Will Grayson’s father adds so much to the story. Parents tend to be absent in young adult books, but his Dad makes a brief appearance here and it reminded me how important good parents are. Sometimes just being there or saying I love you can make all the difference in a child’s life and I loved the quiet scene Will and his Dad shared.  The second Will Grayson’s mother is also an important character that helps you u deer stand her son and helps to point him in the right direction.
I want to close with a quote from “Acknowledgments”  page for Will Grayson, Will Grayson:

We acknowledge that being the person God made you cannot separate you from God’s love.

Two more days left of school!!!

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

One response to “Will Grayson, Will Grayson

  • Jay M.

    Another one on my "to read" list. I now have about 6 gay novels lined up on the Kindle. I'll be reading for months! Oh darn! HAHAHAHAHAPeace <3Jay

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