Will Grayson, Will Grayson
by John Green and David Levithan
Published April 2010 by Dutton Juvenile.
This is a young adult novel that is 1. pretty good and 2. a weird concept novel. The story is split between two narrators, both of whom just happen to both be named Will Grayson. John Green wrote the odd-numbered chapters, and David Levithan wrote the even-numbered. I personally read this book specifically because it has John Green's name on the cover, and saw the weird narrative as a downside. However, it works. Really well.
This novel actually has three main characters: Will Grayson, the other Will Grayson, and Tiny Cooper. While this story is mostly just about being teenagers, it is also about being gay in high school, and especially about being friends with a very gay and very large and very interesting person named Tiny. And, perhaps, taking part in his Big Gay musical, Tiny Dancer: the Tiny Cooper Story.
The first Will Grayson is a typical John Green teenager, essentially exactly the same character that appears in all of his novels. Slightly geeky, a bit of an outcast, drawn to interesting characters. He is not particularly happy, but thanks to his two guiding principles, 1. Don't Care Too Much and 2. Shut Up, he is not very unhappy either. Tiny, aside from being his best friend, is also the polar opposite of Will Grayson -- at least, the Will Grayson that manages to live by his two central directives.
the other will grayson appears to be specifically designed to annoy, at least for his first two chapters. he's uncouth and surly, cynical and apathetic, and refuses to capitalize anything -- and since the book is written in the first person, this means that NOTHING is capitalized in will grayson's chapters. nothing at all. it takes a while to get over this, and a few other stylistic differences, such as all conversations being written out as if they were a script for a play. thankfully, after the first few chapters will grayson's character starts to develop, and he turns out to be quite human after all. although he never learns to capitalize.
oh, and will grayson is gay, and in the closet. which is part of why he is so surly. a large part of the novel is centered around him coming out of the closet, which tiny helps with. as you might have guessed, this is a somewhat angsty novel -- for both will graysons -- but it is overall uplifting and entertaining.
Now, reading all of that, I think that this book comes across as a little boring and probably more than a little annoying... but it's not. (Well, maybe just a bit at first). The characters are interesting, the situations they get themselves into are amusing, and the characters develop well. This is certainly worth reading if you are a John Green fan, and while I have not yet read any books by David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson has convinced me that I should hunt some down. Moreover, the authors complement each other nicely, Levithan bringing some darkness to Green, and Green bringing some quirkiness to Levithan. Given the split between the earlier chapters, it is impressive how well they do once the characters meet, and the authors have to write each other's characters. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys amusing stories of later-teenage drama. If that's not you, you probably should go read something else.
ISBN: 978-0-525-42158-0, 310 pages.