Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson [2010]

My friend Cassandra was off the squee-meter upon the announcement of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, written collaboratively by bestselling YA fiction authors John Green and David Levithan. I've read both Boy Meets Boy and An Abundance of Katherines, so I had at least a faint idea of what I was getting myself into. The book is divided into alternating sections, each narrated by a character named Will Grayson, whom I have decided to differentiate using their relationship with the fabulously gay Tiny Cooper. Best Friend Will is straight and written by John Green, while Boyfriend Will (however short-lived that relationship may be) is written by David Levithan. In the audiobook, two different actors perform the narration.

Best Friend Will tries as hard as he can not to care about anything or get involved, but he doesn't always succeed. As the best pal since 5th grade of the giant, gay, football-playing Tiny Cooper, who also happens to be writing, directing, producing, and starring in his own autobiographical musical, Tiny Dancer (later renamed Hold Me Closer), Will winds up doing a lot of things he's not comfortable with, including not only joining the school's GSA, but meeting Jane, who may or may not have a boyfriend. Boyfriend Will is deep in the closet and pretty much hates everyone except his secret online crush, Isaac. His dad left him and his mom on their own when he was younger, and he loathes school and what he feels is the general pointlessness of life. When the two Wills meet accidentally at a porn store in Chicago, their lives become intertwined in interesting and unexpected ways, leading them to reevaluate their similar fears of engagement with the world.

Grade: B+

Random Thoughts:

I listened to the book in the car, and the audio format was both a blessing and a curse. The downside was that the Emo Will Grayson's parts are not only all in lower case in the paper version, they are also conducted a good part of the time as online chat conversations or stage dialogue. Listening to someone read chat transcripts out loud is not actually that fun . . . BUT there was also a big upside, and that was hearing all of the songs from Tiny Cooper's musical (that appear in the book--I am waiting impatiently for someone to come up with a CD) actually being sung out loud. The awesomeness of this cannot be understated. So, as usual, I am forced to recommend both reading the book and listening to the performance.

I liked the book's concept, even though I am generally wary about collaboratively written books and can't quite say why. I do love Sorcery and Cecilia, so perhaps my protests are mostly for show. The John Green parts were very . . . John Greeny. I'm not complaining, but the vigorously extended Schrödinger's Cat metaphor was a dead giveaway. They definitely did a great job of switching the narrative between the two characters.

I have a deep fascination with other people named Anna, so I totally get the idea of being startled and interested by someone who happens to have your exact same name. However, the end was a bit too contrived for my taste, what with all the [spoiler alert] Will Grayson variations showing up at Tiny's play at the last minute. I also felt like the book struggled at times to be about the Wills and not about Tiny Cooper, as if, having created such a magnificently flamboyant and compelling character, Green and Levithan were reluctant to cede space to their protagonists.

Dead Mother: No
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1 comment:

Cassandra Mortmain said...

Predictably, your friend Cassandra preferred the John Green part of the book to the David Levithan who is, I think, a little too unironic about his emotionalism to really work for me. He tends to want bigger emotional climaxes than I feel like he's really earned, and all the prose is a little too direct and unvarnished for me. Verrrrrry emo.

John Green's scene in the dugout had me absolutely weeping buckets though. I loved that the structure of his half of the book was really about the platonic love affair, rather than the boyfriend and girlfriend part. There are not many such narratives for boys, and I think there should be many more.