Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Authors: John Green and David Levithan
Publisher: Dutton Books (2010)
Challenges: 2011 GoodReads Reading Challenge
How I Came by This Book: I kept seeing this book on blogs and the cover was enough to make me want to read it. It, like a lot of the books on this blog, was obtained from my library.
About the Authors: John Green is the New York Times-bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns. He has received numerous awards, including both the Printz Medal and a Printz Honor. John is also the co-creator (with his brother, Hank) of the popular video blog Brotherhood 2.0, which has been watched more than 50 million times by Nerdfighter fans all over the globe. John Green lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.
David Levithan is an award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author of many books for teens, including Boy Meets Boy, Wide Awake, Love Is the Higher Law, and (with Rachel Cohn) Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. He also works as an editor and, in his free time, takes way too many pictures. He lives in New Jersey.
Synopsis: It's not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old--including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire--Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most awesome high school musical.
Review: I've mentioned before that it takes a lot for me to read a YA novel. While I understand the need for the genre and am aware of the fact that teenagers find comfort and advice between the covers of these books, YA doesn't always do it for me. So when I grab a YA book off of the shelves at my library before anyone else can get their hands on it, you know that something about the book has me intrigued. So it was with Green and Levithan's Will Grayson, Will Grayson.
The story of two very different teenage boys with the same name, this novel chronicles only a few months but it covers a lot of territory in the process. Delving into teenage love (and angst), acceptance and tolerance of those who are different than you, depression, friendship, and, yes, musical theater, Green and Levithan have created an opus that resonates with its readers for as many different reasons as there are sets of hands holding the book. For me, reading about the triumphs and trials of gay teenagers in high school was the most meaningful part of this novel. Remembering my own high school experience and the hatred and intolerance that I (and others like me) endured made the eventual "fabulous" ending of Will Grayson, Will Grayson all the more satisfying. But that, of course, is not all.
While it took me a few chapters to really appreciate the characters, once I became better acquainted with them and their idiosyncrasies, I was invested in them and sped through the book to find out what happened. My favorite out of all of them is Tiny Cooper, friend to one Will Grayson and eventual love interest of the other. Tiny is a fun, unique character who jumps out of the book at you. Reminding me a little of guys that I've known while still managing to be unlike anyone I've ever known before, Tiny made a real impression on me. The other characters, including both Will Graysons, are all interesting in their own way and are pretty recognizable as people who walk the halls of any high school in this country. Watching them change and grow was a great experience and both authors manage, with only minor hiccups here and there, to form authentic teenagers.
The plot itself, I thought, was a little on the thin side, but that's because the story is character-driven. It's not that major things are happening to these kids, it's that they are being formed by the minor things that happen to them, even the ones that may seem major at the time. The high school musical production of Tiny's play, Tiny Dancer (later, Hold Me Closer) is what is driving these characters to the end of the novel but what's more important is how they act and react along the way.
The narrative is colorful, funny, and engaging and it holds the reader's attention. I spent only about a day reading this book because I didn't want to put it down. I wanted to know what was going to happen next, how the major players were going to clear the next hurdle. I enjoyed the alternating chapters and the differences in the two Will Graysons' personalities and story-telling styles. It made what was already a great book into an even better one.
I had a few little issues with the book, but nothing worth writing about. I'm never completely satisfied with dialogue in any book, nor was I entirely impressed with Will Grayson #2 (the one who doesn't capitalize, um, anything) at first. He grew on me pretty quickly but initially I was left wondering whether or not I was actually supposed to like him. These small, inconsequential things didn't detract from the novel in any major way and I ended up even getting choked up a little because of how fantastic the ending was.
I'm giving Will Grayson, Will Grayson 4 out of 5 Gabriels.
As an added bonus, here's a video of the song "Holland, 1945" by Neutral Milk Hotel, which is Will Grayson #1's favorite song (and which I didn't realize actually existed until I happened upon it unexpectedly):