Book review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan

Alternate title: In Which I Write the Words “Will Grayson” over and over and over…

There’s a lot to like about Will Grayson, Will Grayson: it’s strong and honest and funny, its teen melodramas feel so authentic (when you’re a teenager everything is so! important! and! dramatic!), and some of its characters are truly likeable.

But… I’m not sure I liked this book.

That’s because, despite its title, Will Grayson, Will Grayson isn’t actually about someone called Will Grayson. The dominant character is Tiny Cooper, an ironically named high-schooler whose body is almost as big as his personality. Tiny is the long-time best friend of Will Grayson, a pessimistic introvert who’s determined to avoid any sort of emotional experience. By a strange quirk of fate he meets another Will Grayson: this one is starting to open up about his sexuality, and entranced when he meets the openly and extremely gay Tiny.

The book wavers between the viewpoints of Will Grayson and Will Grayson (Green wrote from one point-of-view, and Levithan from the other), and it’s cleverly written – it’s a book with gay characters, though it’s not a gay book. (Not that there’s anything wrong with gay books, as such; I mean it’s not a Problem Novel about being gay.)

(For the record, the gay Will Grayson was my favourite Will Grayson.)

I found Tiny annoying, and it annoyed me that the other characters fawned over him so much – the book literally ends (spoiler!) with scores of people declaring to Tiny how much they appreciate his sheer awesomeness. If you’re like me and don’t buy into Tiny’s awesomeness, this is a serious problem. I didn’t really get why Tiny, who’s so overbearing (not to mention gay to the point of stereotype; he reminded me of “too gay to function” Damian from Mean Girls), is so important to these characters.

That said, I did like that the straight Will and Tiny have a friendship where sexuality is not an issue. And a crucial part of the adolescent experience is having at least one friend who is kind of a dick. (Years later, you reflect on your teenage years and wonder why the hell you spent so much time with so obvious a jerk.) Perhaps this is what Green and Levitan are really writing about – major kudos to them if so, though such an analysis seems like a bit of a stretch.

 

Sam Downing

 

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