Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

It's not that far from Evanston to Naperville...

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them both legions of faithful fans.

I haven't fooled myself about why I read this book now, not some later time.  Yes, I really wanted to read another John Green book. But I could've read Looking for Alaska or Paper Towns.  No, I read this book in particular as a somewhat silly teenage rebellion against my dad, who had both expressed his disapproval of gay marriage and insulted John Green in the same discussion a week ago.  But I'm glad I read it.   I had not read any of Levithan's work prior to this, and I'd only ever read John Green's third person, so I was going into this somewhat blind.  While I didn't love it quite as much as An Abundance of Katherines, I was not disappointed.

It's interesting, seeing how writing as different as John's and David's could work together so well.  
Though it's slightly different from his third person, John's first person is still funny and smooth reading and thoughtful with excellent dialogue. It never tripped me up, and it was really easy to get lost in it as I read.
David's . . . I'm going to be honest, I thought I would hate it at first.  I mean, the capitals.  The lower case letters were murder for my OCD.  I could barely stand them. But then, as the book progressed, I slowly grew used to them. And really, they were sort of perfect for Will's character.
Also, the train-of-thought feeling his writing often has. That bugged me at first, too.  But like the capitals, it was fitting, and I got used to it. By the end of this book I could could say quite comfortably that I liked David Levithan's writing.
Good, solid writing for this one.

I'm going to cover three characters: John's Will Grayson, David's Will Grayson, and Tiny Cooper.
So, the John Green Will Grayson. I really liked him.  John Green definitely has a talent at creating characters whose narrative you can just slip into, who you can fall in love with even though they're not the typical "hawt" males of YA today.  His voice was very clear, and he almost never frustrated me, which is saying something.  I was rooting for him. I root for characters I like.
Now, David's Will Grayson. Similarly to the writing, I thought I was going to hate him at first.  He was just so angry and depressed that I was sitting there waiting for his chapters to end.  But as the book went on, he  grew. Both the Will Graysons grew, changed, evolved.  And while I can't say I was in love with this Will Grayson by the end of the book, I understood him. And see, that's really the important thing.  I discovered this in Thirteen Reasons Why.  You don't have to like these sort of characters. They don't need your liking. You just need to understand them and why they are the way they are, and I understood this Will Grayson by the end.  That's what matters.
Finally, we come to . . . Tiny Cooper.    Some have argued that this isn't really the story of two Will Graysons, this is the story of Tiny Cooper. And they are kinda right.  Everything sort of revolves around him in a way.  This huge, hugely gay boy who acts like a child, falls in love in a flash, and, cheesy as this sounds, has a heart even bigger than his rather enormous stomach.  
Sometimes I really loved Tiny and wanted to give him a huge hug, and sometimes I wanted to slap him.  Like when he talked about Will to Gary, and then seemed almost offended that Will was offended by what he's said. Well, I know I'd certainly be offended if my friend said something like that about me. And the fact that he didn't apologize for it.  But there was something so sincere and sweet about him most of the time that's so rare these days, and that I loved.  Tiny Cooper was definitely a very well-developed character, at the least.
For the most part, the rest of the characters were very good. I really liked Jane. I think she complimented Will very well, and I like how John Green's girls are always more awesome in their personalities than their looks.
One last thing: I congratulate the two of them on keeping the characters pretty consistent throughout the chapters.  Obviously the two Will Graysons saw the characters different ways, but they were very steady throughout the book.
Both John and David have a talent with characters, and considering this novel was mostly about the characters and their journeys, that's definitely a good thing.

The thing is . . . there wasn't an exceptionally strong, overall plot.  This book was not about the plot. It was about the characters, how they interacted, how they grew, the journeys they took and where those took them.  It's about love and tolerance and truth.  Yes, I did think several of the romances happened too fast, and yes, the musical thing could've been focused on a bit more before the musical itself, but in the overall picture of this "plot," that doesn't really matter.  Because these characters changed so much and learned so much in the space of 310 pages, and that's what does matter.

I really enjoyed this book.  While it wasn't one of those books that I'd say you can't live without reading, that I will remember forever and ever, it made me laugh, it made me smile, and it made me think, and that's what I ask of in a book.
Four stars.


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