Thursday, April 01, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson -- John Green & David Levithan

I think the title of this one should be Will Grayson, will grayson because the book is told in alternating chapters by two high schoolers with the same name, one of whom doesn't use upper case letters. Maybe his clinical depression and lack of self-esteem have something to do with it.

When I was reading the book, I wondered who wrote which chapters. The first Will Grayson's chapters sound more like John Green, and I'd have picked him as the author of those except maybe that's what they want me to think. Maybe Green and Levithan switched off chapters. Or maybe they switched off on styles and Green wrote the will grayson chapters.

Not that makes any difference. No matter who wrote what, it's a very funny, touching book. One of the major characters is Tiny Cooper, the “the world’s largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world’s gayest person who is really, really large.” Tiny is Will Grayson's best friend and has been since they were in fifth grade. Through a remarkable coincidence, Tiny meets will grayson, and the two fall in lust. Things get complicated because Tiny has introduced a girl named Jane to Will Grayson, whose two rules for living are these: "1. Don't care too much. 2. Shut up." Will finds himself falling for Jane, while will and Tiny are falling for each other.

Meanwhile Tiny is preparing to produce his high school musical, which, believe me, bears absolutely no resemblance to any Disney movie named High School Musical. It's the world's gayest high school musical. It's so gay that it makes Glee look like an episode of The Wire. But it's a great musical. It's about love and friendship, just like the whole book, which concludes with a performance of the show. While the ending is highly improbable, it's also eminently satisfying.

A final comment. This book has every naughty word you can think of in it. Not to mention underage drinking. Combine that with the gay themes, explicit references to gay sex, and even a couple of necking scenes with Tiny and will, and you have a book that would have sent the parents of my hometown marching on the library with torches and pitchforks when I was in high school. Times have changed, as if you didn't know, but I have to wonder if this book won't get some of that kind of attention even now. We'll see.

7 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:21 AM

    I like Green and I trust you so will check this one out, along with about a zillion other things.

    I just picked up several YA novels that were recommended by Nick Hornby in his last collection of review columns as well.

    Gotta read faster.

    Jeff

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  2. Whatever happened to the Evelyn Wood speed-reading course? Do they still offer that?

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  3. Anonymous9:10 AM

    John Green wrote the odd chapters and David Levithan wrote the even ones.

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  4. I think it's worth noting that almost all of John Green's novels can or have sent parents screaming to libraries and school boards.

    But that's not what matters. What matters is that the novels are reaching out to teens and letting them experience the world vicariously through the characters.

    Even more important is that this novel has gay characters, which it's true does exist elsewhere, but there need to be more, because a lot of the YA books I read have them in hiding, having to prove themselves. What about the teens who've been through that already? Can't they see that they can have a normal life, too?

    That said, I'm just an excessively huge fan of John Green's, and will have no idea what the book will be like until I get it in a few days :)

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  5. Anon: That's what I thought but then I wondered if the might not be switching off once or twice, just to mess with us.

    Amanda: I expect you'll love it.

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  6. Anonymous10:41 AM

    "...you have a book that would have sent the parents of my hometown marching on the library with torches and pitchforks when I was in high school."
    I know what I'M READING! :D

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  7. Heather11:03 PM

    I read WGWG and really enjoyed it. As a high school English teacher I do happen to agree that this book will receive some major negative attention from parents and other educators (unfortunately). The book is beautiful, meaningful and touching, it is exactly the kind of book that teenagers SHOULD be reading and thus the kind of book that will be censored. It is so sad that homosexuality is still such a taboo subject in the schools, its doing more harm than people know.

    Lets just hope that if censorship occurs that teenagers will respond in the way they always do...doing what they are not supposed to :)

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