“My fellow underage Frenchy’s pilgrim runs up to me and says, ‘Who are you?’
I stand up then and say, ‘Um, I’m Will Grayson.’
‘W-I-L-L G-R-A-Y-S-O-N?’ he says, spelling impossibly fast.
‘Uh, yeah,’ I say. ‘Why do you ask?’
The kid looks at me for a second, his head turned like he thinks I might be putting him on, and then finally he says, ‘Because I am also Will Grayson.’”
Co-authored by YA powerhouses John Green and David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson chronicles the collision of two Will Graysons as they meet by coincidence and find their lives intertwining in unexpected ways. Green writes capital-letters Will Grayson, an Evanston high schooler whose high school career is defined by his policy of not caring, while Levithan takes on lowercase will grayson, who deals with depression by instant messaging his online crush Isaac. When the two meet in a Chicago porn shop, their lives intersect and culminate in the musical stylings of Tiny Cooper, Will Grayson’s “world’s largest person who is really, really gay” friend. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is witty, strange, and unexpected.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson features multiple gay characters, including lowercase will grayson, and the larger-than-life Tiny Cooper, though I found their portrayal to be slightly lacking. I could appreciate that neither Green nor Levithan made coming out a central facet of Will Graysons’ narratives, but I felt as though the gay relationships within Will Grayson, Will Grayson were not expressed in healthy ways. Tiny Cooper’s million boyfriends—and subsequent million breakups—were often a comedic point in Will Grayson’s chapters, but they portrayed Tiny as impulsive and lusty. As Gary of the Gay Straight Alliance jokes throughout, this depiction of gayness isn’t necessarily “good for the cause.” will grayson’s romances, too, fall short of a happy ending. Without giving too much away, straight prospects survive in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, gay prospects less so.
Still, the YA novel does some great work in discussing the importance of friendship. The novel starts with the adage, “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you cannot pick your friend’s nose,” and circles around this notion of whether you actually pick your friends, or whether you just end up with them. I really appreciated the emphasis on platonic friendship, and its value, in the text. Green’s chapters centralize this theme as Will and Tiny push and pull against each other, often in hilarious ways. While romance emerges in the text, the friendships—between Will and Tiny, and between will and maura—occupy the foreground of the plot.
While often funny and upbeat, Will Grayson, Will Grayson approaches difficult topics like socioeconomic class, mental illness, and learning when to stand up for oneself and one’s friends. Some of its content can be difficult in its weight; will grayson’s reflections on depression are often crass and painful, expressing the sorts of fatalist attitudes which might get a student recommended for counseling. Yet, many of the themes discussed in the novel are important, and providing a darker voice for one of its characters might allow certain students to connect with the text. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is worth questioning in terms of its representation, but it also presents important issues students might be facing while still being a humorous, engaging read.
By Laura Kenney
Green, John, and David Levithan. Will Grayson, Will Grayson. London: Penguin , 2014. Print.