Monday, 2 March 2015
#CBR7 Book 26: "Will Grayson, Will Grayson" by David Levithan and John Green
Rating: 4.5 stars
Disclaimer! I was given a copy of this through NetGalley in return for a fair and unbiased review. Honesty compels me to admit that I already owned the book when I requested it, I figured being given a copy would motivate me into reading it and reviewing it more quickly.
This book tells the story of two teenage boys, both named Will Grayson. They have alternating points-of-view chapters, one written by John Green, one by David Levithan. I shall call John Green's teenager Will 1.0 and David Levithan's teenager Will 2.0. Otherwise it'll just get real confusing.
Will 1.0 is your average, not very popular teenager. His best friend, the physically enormous, but ironically nicknamed "Tiny" Cooper, has nearly a thousand Facebook friends and is the centre of attention wherever he goes. He's also extremely gay, falls in love with someone new approximately twice a week and is so secure in his identity that he wants the school to fund a musical he's written about his own life. He also intends to choreograph, direct, stage-manage and in general do everything of importance connected to the musical, initially named "Tiny Dancer". Will 1.0 pretty much has two rules. 1) Try not to care to much about anything. 2) Keep your mouth shut. His apathetic attitude to the world is completely at odds with that of Tiny, who feels passionate about most things. Tiny is trying to set Will 1.0 up with Jane, the only other straight member of their schools gay-straight alliance. Will 1.0 likes Jane, but is also very taken with the idea of just having an unrequited crush on her, as that seems easier and a lot less likely to lead to heart ache.
Will 2.0 had a hard time winning me over, because his chapters were written entirely in lower case. as in he didn't use any capitals at all. everything is written like this, even the names of other characters, like his one and only friend maura, and it drove me UP THE WALL. See how useful capitals can be? Will 2.0 is a loner, who lives alone with his mother and appears to be quite heavily medicated for depression. It's never specified exactly what manner of mental instability, but as the book goes on, he's clearly not one of these, easily cured, just a bit down individuals. Will 2.0 has been chatting online with this guy, Isaac, for about a year, and hasn't admitted to anyone, least of all Maura, who seems extremely eager that he share all his deep inner pain with her, that he's gay. One day, Isaac suggests that the two meet up, and this is what leads to the two Will Graysons actually meeting in person.
Due to reasons I don't want to spoil, Isaac never turns up, but Will 2.0 meets Will 1.0 and they are both amazed and a bit baffled that they share a name. As Will 2.0 is quite upset after learning the truth about Isaac, Will 1.0 introduces him to Tiny, and soon Will 2.0 is not only openly gay at school, but has a larger than life boyfriend, who is very busy trying to get everything ready for the opening of his musical. Tiny's relationship with Will 2.0 makes him realise that his master work can't just be the Tiny Cooper story, it has to have a message. It needs to be mean something. He starts rewriting it, turning it into "Hold Me Closer" and in the process of being in love and making his musical happen, seems to forget all about his best friend, who's going through some emotional turmoil of his own.
The first quarter to a third or so of the book, before the two Will Graysons meet, was a bit slow, and I was unsure what everyone online was so enthusiastic about. The convoluted circumstances leading to the two meeting, and the immediate aftermath is when the book sunk its hooks into me, and after that, I had trouble putting the book down. Initially, Will 1.0 seemed the most likable and approachable of the two, but as the book goes on, Will 2.0 won me over more and more. They are both teenage boys, of course, prone to being self-centred, making all manner of dumb choices, not really great at expressing themselves and altogether quite exasperating at times. Sometimes I wanted to shake them, and sometimes I wanted to hug them. I very much appreciate the honest way in which Will 2.0's mental problems was handled. There's a lot of darkness in his life, and it was good to see that to an extent, he just needed to "snap out of it" a bit, he wasn't going to be magically cured by the power of love.
Tiny Cooper is a force of nature and I kept seeing Damian from Mean Girls in my mind's eye in every scene he was in. Unlike Damien, Tiny isn't at all "almost too gay to function", he's just gay enough. Openly gay since primary school, Tiny and Will 1.0's friendship is a long and loyal one and while at first, Tiny seemed as if he could be quite exhausting, being best friends with someone as non-committal and apathetic as Will 1.0 must also not be the easiest. Tiny wants what is best for everyone, and his match-making efforts to get Jane and Will 1.0 together are adorable. I desperately want this to be made into a movie, just so I can see the glory that is "Hold Me Closer" actually staged and performed. It's clearly the best high school musical ever featured in a YA book.
Once the book sank its figurative hooks in me, I didn't really want to put it down. I read it during every free second of the day and cursed the pile of correction work I had to complete before I could finish it. It made me laugh, it made me genuinely feel for the characters and I wish that I had a friend like Tiny Cooper, gay or straight, in my life to make it a better place. This is my second encounter with John Green's writing (after he slayed me with The Fault in Our Stars). Reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson has made me decide that I need to read all his other YA books too. I've never read anything by David Levithan before, but as long as he actually doesn't make it a habit to never use capitalisation in his other books, I will absolutely be checking out more of his books now too.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.