Monday, May 23, 2011

Summer Reread: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

John Green: the author who led legions of young adult readers in finding paper towns in a literary map of obsession and love; the man responsible for instilling in the minds of people that it is futile to find patterns for love, and then giving them hope despite the abundance of dumpers that may break their hearts; the guy who guided everyone out of the ‘labyrinth of suffering’ in more ways than we know.

David Levithan: the writer who established a LGBTQ utopia in YA literature; the man who rocked everyone’s socks with his infinite playlist of musical geekiness and literary prowess; the guy who provided a lover’s dictionary yet planted in the mind of readers that a lexicon of a thousand words will never be enough to define ‘love’.


What happens when John Green meets David Levithan? The same thing that happens when Will Grayson meets Will Grayson—a collision of two things that seem poles apart, yet when fit together form a perfect whole as if they are long lost pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Together, they form a new masterpiece that they may not be able to create on their own.

I really like the story’s premise. The gist of Will Grayson, Will Grayson is more or less this: two guys with the same name but entirely different worlds bump into each other in an unlikely crossroad in Chicago. A little do they know, this chance meeting will launch their lives in life-altering directions…and they can only hope it’s for the better. With their friends tinkering helpfully with the hodgepodge of predicaments and newly established (and suddenly crumbling) relationships left in the wake of the ‘collision’, both Will Graysons know that they have just had the pivotal turns of their lives…and there’s no other choice but to face the consequences.

Now let’s talk about the title characters. The first Will Grayson is obviously Green’s because he’s possessing the author’s patented characterization of protagonists. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but classic Green heroes are mostly 25% oddball/dorky, 25% lovesick, and 50% selfish—with all the parts encased in a fragile bag of skin that is always described as “cute”. Grayson has all three qualities (and the bag) except that they are present in smaller percentages; a bigger chunk of his personality is a magnet to the readers because even if he’s not very special—not famous-last-words crazy, not a washed up child prodigy, not an obsessive grammarian—he stands out by being the realistic reflection of a typical teenager. And he’s really confused. He’s clinging to the peak of his own bildungsroman while juggling the complicated diabolos of love and friendship.

Meanwhile, Levithan’s Will Grayson lies on the opposite side of the spectrum. My first Levithan book is Boy Meets Boy and I can confidently say that his Grayson is in no way coming from the same planet as the kids in the first book. Grayson is a snarky homosexual teen (in the early chapters he’s far, far in the closet that I bet he can almost see Narnia…or maybe some otherworldly place that made him the way he is). He is a manic depressive goth who is in love with a guy he met online. For someone who has illness, he is incredibly hard to sympathize with; his thoughts and overall demeanor are rude, bitter, and brutally realistic. I completely understand how many readers tend to dislike this character. I mean, who loves a character that will likely give you a dirty finger if you show him any hint of pity? He can’t even seem to finish a sentence without dropping an f-bomb. He’s dark humor on two feet with his voice reminiscent of Chuck Palahniuk characters, only younger and funnier. Paradoxically, between the two Graysons, I like the goth kid more. He almost has a four-dimensional weight…and he made me cry. :)

At the vertex of the Graysons’ relationship polygon is Tiny Cooper, a not-so-tiny gay friend of the first Grayson who is producing a musical play based on his life (I wish I was kidding). He’s the point of convergence of the two boys’ worlds, and he fuels the novel to go on when the alternating stories seem to diverge forever.

All in all this is a very good read. Green and Levithan were able to deliver messages of all kinds of love—platonic, filial, parental, straight or homosexual. Love knows no gender or physical appearances. Everyone is deserving of love, whoever you may be, whatever you may look like.

Two thumbs up for a great collab!

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