Saturday, April 17, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson 
by John Green & David Levithan
published April 2010 by Penguin
304 pages (hardcover), YA

Can I first say how much I love author collaborations? I really, really do. Okay, now we can begin the review or something like it.

Jacket flap:
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.
How refreshing it is to read a YA book about love and friendship through the voices of two male characters! I'm finding it difficult to harness my thoughts because there is just so much I loved about this book. The writing? I couldn't stop laughing. John Green's Will Grayson is too witty for words, while David Levithan's will grayson is deeply troubled but with a sour sense of humor. I wish I was one of those people who carried around a quote journal because I would fill it with lines from this book. Part of the reason I liked it so much is because it resonated with my teen self - it instantly took me back to high school (I suppose it helps that I lived in the Chicago suburbs too) in such a disturbingly vivid way. But the book is set completely in the present, with texting in classes, musical references, and a trip to Millennium Park. I found myself thinking, how is it possible that these adult men could write today's teen boys so well? That's not really a question because I do think that Green and Levithan are very much in tune with the times and interact with youth, while drawing on their own adolescent experiences as well.

When I read it again, I'll have more to say. For now, I'm just giddy from the experience. I don't read a whole lot of realistic fiction, but I'd say this is the best of the genre. Authentic teens with real emotions and problems with the propensity for getting into ridiculous situations.

AND! I can't overlook the gay characters in this book - but gay without the drama of coming out, which is what so many GLBTQ books focus on. No, this book represents gay teens with the same sense of normalcy as straight teens, which is so so important. Yes, Tiny Cooper is a bit over the top in his gayness, but we all know someone like him. will grayson is almost passively gay until he develops a relationship and has the option to explore what it means to be gay and out. And Will Grayson is so not gay but loves his best friend Tiny Cooper in a way that best friends love each other - homophobia is not even an option. I hope that this is an accurate reflection of teens today, with their open minds and hearts, but I know it's not the case everywhere. Maybe not even in Naperville. But somewhere. Somewhere, I hope that people can love who they love, experiencing the joys and pains of all kinds of relationships and friendships.

What I got more than anything else in this book was the intensity of the characters' emotions and personalities. And that's what I remember most about being a teen - every emotion, every touch, every thought, every conversation was magnified - and the people in my life meant more to me than absolutely anything else. My goodness, what a book to evoke such vivid, sentient memories!

I'll stop there because I'm heading into incoherent gushing territory. I'm curious to know what others think because I stayed far away from reviews this time around. Have you read it? Link your review in the comments! You haven't? Well, go read it!



Mrs. DeRaps said...

I cannot wait to read this title! I'll read anything these two collaborate on! What a great new trend!

Peaceful Reader said...

I'm anxious to read this one...fantastic, glowing review!!

Jan von Harz said...

This one has been getting nothing but great reviews, and after reading your review, I am very excited that I have it coming to my mailbox soon. Love your enthusiasm.

Jonathon Arntson said...

I'm here via Lee Wind's blog. I love what you said there and here. I think a lot of people are passing the book off as a fun read and I think there is so much there, it's inappropriate to boil it down to 'a fun read'. I like your blog, btw!

NatalieSap said...

So, I didn't realize it at the time, but this book has been five years in the making - wow! The end product feels effortless. I'm excited for you all to read it!

And thanks for stopping by, Jonathon! I think it definitely is a "fun" read, but there's so much more to it that I hope people see too.

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