Green, J. , & Levithan D. (2010). Will Grayson, Will Grayson. New York: Dutton.
Appetizer: Set in Chicago, this novel goes back-and-forth, sharing the story of two teenage boys named Will Grayson. In the odd-numbered chapters, John Green writes the story of the first Will Grayson, who lives life by two simple rules: 1) Don't care to much and 2) Shut up. But his friend Tiny Cooper (who is HUGE, gay and plays football and is writing a play about Will and him) makes it difficult for Will One to stick to his rules and he soon finds himself forced to help with Tiny's musical production of his life story, while resisting a girl named Jane who he both likes and doesn't like.
David Levithan's Will Grayson--of the even chapters--is struggling with his depression. The one bright spot in his life is his love for a boy named Isaac who lives in Ohio. But Will won't admit that he's in love with Isaac to anyone. He won't even tell his only friend Maura that Isaac exists. As Will and Isaac plan to meet for the first time, Will prepares to go to Chicago, a trip that will send him to run into the other Will Grayson. Both will find that their lives are changed by their meeting and following interactions.
As far as co-written experiments go, I really loved this one. The two Wills' have very distinct voices and Levithan's Will only narrates in lower case and presents dialogue in script format. Green's Will is also often referred to as Grayson instead of by his first name, which helps to keep the already very-distinct voices separate and clear with just a glance at the page.
I absolutely loved Green's writing. It was him at his best--super quirky and humorous. He still hasn't really wandered away from his tendency to write from the perspective of a tall, skinny, upper-class white guy with a best friend who is somehow marked or marginalized. But, while a limited perspective, he writes what he writes WELL. I found that I enjoyed his Will Grayson much more than I kinda-sorta liked the first half of Quentin in PaperTowns.
Although, I still have to admit, I found that my passion did fade in the last third of the book. Maybe there was a little less humor, maybe Green's Will Grayson was kind of squared away and the story began to belong to Tiny and Levithan's Will. But there were fewer chuckles on my part.
I was surprised by Levithan's writing. The only books I'd previously read by him was Boy Meets Boy (which is wonderful, humorous LUV! and sticks to the fluffier-side of life as a homosexual teen) and Wide Awake (which I felt 'eeh' about). So, it was very surprising to start chapter two and read the dark voice of his Will Grayson. Startling, in fact. But as I kept reading, I started to like that Will Grayson more, as he became more rounded than just the consuming depression and anger that initially surprised me.
The character, Tiny Cooper has a central role in both Will Graysons' lives, helping to make this book extend beyond being about romantic love, to being about all love, (but particularly friendship love!). But, after finishing the book, I still felt I didn't completely know Tiny. Yeah, I thought both authors did a fair job of presenting his character consistently, but I still felt I only understood Tiny at the surface level. Part of my problem could be how outgoing and energetic Tiny was as a character. I'm more of the withdrawn, silent type, and I still have trouble understanding what makes talkative people tick when they're real and I can actually ask them "hey, what makes you tick?" I have yet to get an answer that is sensical or that doesn't make me feel exhausted just listening.
I'm glad this book came out when it did, because next week I plan to do a lesson on stories that are co-constructed. While I'd planned to focus in part on Chester (in which a character battles his author for power over the story) and on the awesomeness that is mad libs (oh girl scout camp in fourth and fifth grade, you will always being associated with these and my childhood deep-rooted fear of forgetting what an adverb is), this will add a nice YA touch to the talk.
"When I was little, my dad used to tell me, "Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose." This seemed like a reasonably astute observation to me when I was eight, but it turns out to be incorrect on a few levels. To begin with, you cannot possibly pick your friends, or else I never would have ended up with Tiny Cooper" (p. 1).
"i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me.
those seem to be the two choices. everything else is just killing time" (p. 22).
"This is a great picture of you. This is what you look like," I tell her. And it's true. That's the problem: so many things are true. It's true that I want to smother her with compliments and true that I want to keep my distance. True that I want her to like me and true that I don't. The stupid endless truth speaking out of both sides of its big, stupid mouth. It's what keeps me, stupidly, talking. "Like, you can't know what you look like, right? Whenever you see yourself in the mirror, you know you're looking at you, so you can't help but pose a little. So you never really know. But this--that's what you look like" (pp. 53-54).
"still, i can't help thinking that 'getting a life' is something only a complete idiot could believe. like you can just drive to a store and get a life. see it in its shiny box and look inside the plastic window and catch a glimpse of yourself in a new life and say, 'wow, i look much happier--i think this is the life i need to get!' take it to the counter, ring it up, put it on your credit card. if getting a life was that easy, we'd be one blissed-out race. but we're not. so it's like, mom, your life isn't out there waiting, so don't think all you have to do is find it and get it. no, your life is right here. and, yeah, it sucks. lives usually do. so if you want things to change, you don't need to get a life. you need to get off your ass" (p. 65).
"There aren't that many Will Graysons," he says. "It's gotta mean something, one Will Grayson meeting another Will Grayson in a random porn store where neither Will Grayson belongs."
"Are you suggesting that God brought two of Chicago-land's underage Will Graysons into Frenchy's at the same time?"
"No, asshole," he says, "but I mean, it must mean something."
"Yeah," I say. "It's hard to believe in coincidence, but it's even harder to believe in anything else" (p. 114).
Tasty Rating: !!!!
Also, just in case you missed the announcement during the readathon (let's be honest, there was a lot of posting going down that day. It's perfectly understandable if one slipped by without notice), Monica and I will be starting our next literary feast of Heist Society on Saturday. We'll being going through the first nine chapters.
I hope you can join us!