BanannerPants’s #CBR4 Review #04: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
The praise on the cover lied to me. I waited a few days after reading it to review it to allow my feelings to settle. I have to keep reminding myself that am not this book’s target audience and that perhaps the parts I had trouble with are the parts that were the message to its intended audience. (It’s a national bestseller and received high praise; not liking it makes me feel bad.)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a YA novel written by John Green and David Levithan. They each wrote half the book, alternating the chapters. Each had their own Will Grayson. With that, they each had their own style. On one hand the separate styles further distinguish the Wills from each other—their personalities come through in the way they’re telling their stories. On the other hand, it feels gimmicky; it’s an obvious way to show perspective shift hidden in a clever style-choice.
There are two Will Graysons. Will Grayson doesn’t seem to be that uncommon of a name, however, I imagine when you meet someone with your exact name, you’re taken aback regardless. The book’s back cover would have us believe that the Will Graysons meeting each other has forever and drastically changed the course of each boy’s life. I find this hard to believe.
First of all, we know they’re going to meet because 1. it’s practically the title, and 2. it’s the hook printed on the book to draw you in. However, this inciting incident doesn’t actually happen until Chapter 7, on page 110. If this were a David Foster Wallace magnum opus of 1200 pages, page 110 might be early for an inciting incident. This is not the case. 110-pages is almost halfway through the book. Therefore, I believe their meeting wasn’t really the inciting incident to the story at all; it’s a coincidence, an anecdote, a path to a catchy title. Of course, it didn’t do nothing, but it didn’t create cold fusion either.
The praise on the front cover reads “Funny, rude and original.” I didn’t laugh and I wasn’t very put-off. As far as originality goes, it may be, but not always in the best possible ways. It seems original that Will Grayson #1 is obsessed with Neutral Milk Hotel, they are a very original band. They released one 11-song album in 1998 that Will Grayson spends hours listening to and parsing apart, even though he doesn’t like all of it, but still, it’s his favorite band. That just seems sad.
Perhaps it’s the antagonist of the story who is original—Tiny Cooper. He’s really less of an antagonist and more of just an anti-protagonist. In an attempt to not stereotype him, the authors failed to ground him in anything. I failed to connect with him; he remained an amorphous blob to me the entire time. He is the biggest link between the two Will Graysons. He’s the best friend and the boyfriend and his presence and subsequent absence in each of their lives is the engine of the story.
The book isn’t bad, I just found a few parts hard to believe. I’m attempting to suspend my disbelief since I am not a YA, but I still have a hard time believing teenage boys talk to each other that much. Also, I don’t believe the musical described in the pages could have been produced in 9 days for $1000. I was originally critical of the musical itself—it was schmaltzy and over-the-top, and not realistic. At the same time, if I wasn’t such a cynic, I would have thought it was lovely, and its message was actually quite nice. It was about love and appreciating the people who are around you, so I guess I can’t shit all over a YA novel trying to teach that hard-learned lesson.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is an easy read and might be really enjoyable for an actual 17-year-old. Rumor has it, however, John Green’s newest—The Fault In Our Stars—is his real triumph.