will grayson, meet will grayson
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers cross paths. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in heroic turns-of-heart and the most epic musical ever to grace the high school stage. – Goodreads description
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a unique book. Not only does it split the narrative between the first-person perspectives of two different characters – but each character is written by a different author. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this before, but it really worked. At first it threw me off – it’s difficult to create two distinct voices when both are written by the same author, so even in books with split narrative there’s stylistic and linguistic consistency. So the first time the chapters switched, it was a bit jarring. But as I continued reading and got accustomed to both characters and writing styles, I fell in love with the idea.
The book is about two boys who share one important thing: their name. The first Will Grayson (written by the unmistakable John Green) is a high school student whose biggest goal in life is to shut up and not be noticed. Hard to do when your lifelong best friend is a gigantic gay football player named Tiny.
The second Will Grayson is a bit darker. He’s got a stressed out single mom, he’s on medication for depression, and he spends most of his life hiding who he really is from everyone. But he’s got some surprisingly on point observations about life, that will come out of nowhere and hit you upside the head. Like this one:
“when things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. it’s because a little piece gets lost – the two remaining ends couldn’t’ fit together even if they wanted to. the whole shape has changed.”
When the two Will Graysons cross paths, both their lives change. Each boy is about to face their fears and take a brave step towards a life in which they can not only be happier, but be more, well, Will Grayson than they’ve ever been before.
Not surprisingly, given that John Green wrote The Fault In Our Stars, this book combined humour with impeccable social commentary to create a cohesive, irresistible whole. I alternated between nodding along to the feelings of alienation our Wills suffered, and giggling at their antics. Both the Will Graysons are drawn with a raw honesty that makes your heart ache for them.
I’d actually go so far as to say that this is my second favourite of Green’s pieces of writing (I have yet to explore Levithan’s, however this book definitely has encouraged me to do so). It isn’t TFIOS, because nothing ever could be, but it has a similar heart-warming quality that really drew me in and made me fall in love with the characters.
One of the most beautiful things about this book is that much of what is revealed about the Wills isn’t actually revealed by examining them. It’s revealed by their interactions with the other people in their lives. Their friends are both the mirrors held up to show them their true faces (in all their beauty and ugliness) and the voices telling them what they could become. I fell as much in love with the side-characters as I did with the Wills – possibly even more so. As will become obvious to you when you read the book, the character of Tiny Cooper is one of the most important (if not the most important) in the book.
In fact, I think I should introduce him to you via a few choice quotes:
“That’s the thing about Tiny: his problems are so huge that yours can hide behind them.”
“Me: You have more favourite bands than Tiny has ex-boyfriends. Jane: Yeah, well. Some people have lives; some people have music. Me: And some people have neither. Jane: Cheer up, Will. You’re about to be the hottest straight guy in the Gay-Straight Alliance.”
“Tiny races down the steps and starts skipping – yeah, skipping – toward the junior parking lot. ‘Tiny!’ I shout, but he doesn’t turn around; he just keeps skipping. I don’t start to skip after his crazy ass or anything, but I do kinda smile. He may be a malevolent sorcerer, but Tiny Cooper is his own goddamned man, and if he wants to be a gigantic skipper, then that’s his right as a huge American.”
Don’t you just love Tiny? You really can’t help it.
If you are a fan of John Green, and if you’re feeling sad after finishing The Fault In Our Stars, add this to your TBR pile. Maybe not right after TFIOS, because that might sell it short, but give it a little while and it’ll help fill that void. Excellent.
Author: John Green & David Levithan
Published By: Speak
Released: April 5, 2011 (this edition)
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
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