Monday, December 27, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

(Photo taken from Goodreads)

Title:  Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author:  John Green and David Levithan
Publisher:  Dutton
Language: English
ISBN-10:  0525421580
ISBN-13:  978-0525421580
Music In My Head:  Two Headed Boy by Neutral Milk Hotel

I finished this book in one go.  I normally have a lot to do during the holidays but once I decided I'm reading this, I let nothing and no one distract me, which is fairly easy because really, when has a David Levithan or a John Green book ever been a drag?  And considering this is a collaboration between the two awesome authors mentioned above, this book is overflowing with awesomeness some of it drips on me!  And because this is partly a David Levithan work, my head automatically plays music and for once, it decides to use one of the songs mentioned in the book, Neutral Milk Hotel's Two Headed Boy, which is Will Grayson #1's least favorite song, but hits the story spot on.  Perfect.

Imagine having another person with your name, not just your first name but your last name too.  Now, suppose you met that person someplace.  I bet some have, and isn't it the strangest feeling?  I have never known anyone named Nina Bermudez - it's my brother who has a namesake, who turns out to be his classmate so imagine the weirdness and the awkward moments when their professor kept confusing them with each other - I do have a fictional character namesake, Nina Bermudez from The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson, but you already know that given that I've mentioned it about 18,546 times on this blog already.  But sometimes, when someone I know reads that book, he/she never fails to tell me about it and say that it felt weird reading about someone in a book that has my name, and they immediately compare me to that character, easily trying to base the character on my personality in high school (which is interestingly, almost the same with what's in the book.  Almost ).  In Will Grayson, Will Grayson,  two 'superficially different' (I'll get to that later) teenagers with the same name meet by accident, and their lives intertwine when Tiny Cooper, Will Grayson #1's (from here on, I shall refer to Will Grayson #1 as WG1 and Will Grayson #2 as WG2) best friend becomes WG2's boyfriend.  A quirky, touching, and cool story about love, friendship, accepting and becoming the real you, and a fabulous school play that brings it full circle.  

If I thought, just by reading the teasers that this would be a predictable story, I couldn't have been more wrong.  First, I did not expect the depth of Tiny's influence on both Will Graysons and how it would affect their outlook in life.  Next, I did not expect the conflict and especially the ending.  I totally had no idea how the book would turn out, but I did predict that I would love everything about it.

In Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, I knew that David Levithan was writing Dash, and Rachel Cohn was writing Lily.  Doing a little research, I found that John Green wrote the chapters for the straight Will Grayson (WG1) and Levithan wrote for the gay Will Grayson (WG2).  Naturally, now why didn't I think of that?  They even split the thinking of a name for their main character, with Levithan coming up with the first name and Green with the last name.  In describing their writing process, they each wrote three chapters for their characters on their own without really agreeing on a definite plot, read it aloud to each other, and then try to imagine the nuances and appropriate reactions of each character when they eventually meet.  Each character stands out clearly, not just because WG2's chapters are written lowercase, reflecting the character's feelings of smallness, marginalization, and hopelessness.  For WG1, the chapters are written in normal type and gives off that smart-guy-who-is-not-aware-of-his-own-coolness-and-pretends-he-does-not-care vibe, which is how WG1 would actually be described.  But even if they are written by two different authors, the story is very clean, seamless, and united  Each chapter flows through the next as smoothly as if I poured oil onto the pages to help the words slide through.  You get this book knowing it's a collaboration, but you finish reading it thinking this is written by just one writer.  There are no contradicting statements, each scene, dialogue, and character consistent and faithful to its initial presentation.  

So now you're probably thinking about the 'superficially different' statement I said about WG1 and WG2.  I think that on the surface, they are different:  1.   WG1 is straight, WG2 is gay;  2.  WG1 has a somewhat easy relationship with his parents, WG2 doesn't; 3.  WG1 may be socially awkward, but sociable nonetheless, while WG2 is a loner and only has one 'real' friend and that does not even work out; 4.  WG1 is sort of smart and upbeat, WG2 is clinically depressed and takes prescribed medications.  So how different can they get, right?  But I can't help noticing the parallel between these two Will Graysons:  They are both trying not to care, not to say too much, and both are afraid and hiding inside themselves - ultimately, they are both hiding, period.  The first two statements are demonstrations of that fact.  I would love to delve deeper into this parallel thing, but that would mean I have to put spoilers and that can't happen.  

I love the supporting characters and how they hold the story together.  They each inspire some emotion from the reader.  I  hated and pitied Maura, got annoyed and then a little 'sweetly cuted-out' by Jane (although I didn't really like her that much), and admired-got-annoyed-fell-in-love with Tiny.  I thought WG1's parents were pretty cool, especially his dad, and I really wanted to give WG2's mom a hug and tell her that everything would be all right.  They could each have their own story lines and plots, especially Tiny.  I would give Tiny a whole novel, come to that.  But I did love the musical he wrote about his life and I wish it could become a reality.  After a little research, I found that the title of his musical, Tiny Dancer and later, Hold Me Closer, are actually parts of a song title by Ironik.  Tiny Dancer (Hold Me Closer) is a 2008 song by Ironik that uses samples of Elton John's song, Tiny Dancer.  And guess what, some Nerdfighters from John Green's website, are working on making Hold Me Closer a reality, and you may visit here if you want to help.  

I think everything in this story is very smart, poignant, and touching, and although this is technically a young adult novel, adults will definitely enjoy reading this as the issues presented here are as mature and as adult as you can get.  I mean, you can go all paranoid and self-conscious about your appearance, your coolness vibe, and your popularity status when you're in high school, but understanding who you really are and accepting yourself is a timeless issue, which makes this book light but meaningful, poking fun at people's pretensions of indifference but shedding light on deciding to face yourself and self-acceptance.  A humorous, quirky, but serious story that every teenager or any-ager needs to read.


  1. This sounds wonderful, especially Tiny Cooper! I can't wait to meet him when I eventually read this.


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