Monday, May 28, 2012

"Will Grayson, Will Grayson" by John Green and David Levithan

310 pages

In the middle of the night, two teenage boys named Will Grayson meet in a Chicago porn shop. How's that for a one-sentence summary? If I were going to expand upon that, I would say that these two Wills don't have much in common besides their name. The first Will Grayson (let's call him Will A) lives in Evanston with his workaholic doctor parents who care about him but don't have a lot of time for him. He's always felt like he's in the shadow of his larger-than-life (both literally and figuratively) best friend, Tiny Cooper. To paraphrase Will:  Tiny might not be the largest, gayest person in the world, but he is definitely the largest person who is really, really gay and the gayest person who is really, really large. Meanwhile, the other Will Grayson (Will B), who lives in Naperville,  is dealing with some tougher stuff. His dad left him alone with his mom years ago, and they've struggled to make ends meet ever since. He's got pretty severe clinical depression and, as if all that wasn't enough, he doesn't know how to tell his mom that he's gay. The only thing keeping him going is his online relationship with Isaac. When they finally decide to meet in person, Will B is shocked to arrive in Chicago and discover that the address Isaac gave him is a porn shop. Meanwhile, the Will A is in the city for a concert.  When his fake ID is spotted by the bouncer and his friends ditch him, he finds himself killing time in the porn store. Here the two Will Graysons run into each other, not knowing that their unlikely meeting will change both of their lives.

This is young adult literature--actually, literature, period--at its best. It's laugh-out-loud funny but it also gives you a lot to think about--mainly about what it means to be a friend. My favorite part of this story, as you might guess, is the characters. The Will Graysons are complex people with problems that readers can relate to. It's Tiny, however, who really steals the show. He's kind of self-centered, but he has a huge heart and he totally cracks me up. Green and Levithan work incredibly well together. They write alternating chapters (John Green writes Will A's perspective while Levithan writes from Will B's point of view), and this method gives each character a very unique voice. It doesn't throw off the pace, though, because the stories weave together so well. Also, it's nice to see a young adult novel with gay characters that isn't completely wrapped up in sexual orientation. Sometimes when a character being gay is all that propels a story, it makes it seem like that's all there is to their character. There's a lot more going on in Will Grayson, Will Grayson and it's a book I would recommend to almost anyone, gay or straight, teen or adult. 

1 comment:

  1. You are absolutely right about this being a book about gay characters that doesn't overly focus on their sexual orientation. People are more than just their sexual orientation and it is refreshing to find a book that weaves all of the character's traits so smoothly.