Will Grayson, Will Grayson
John Green & David Levithan
London, Penguin, 2010, 308p
So I am already a self-confessed fan of John Green - his ability to get inside the mind of the modern teenage is unparalleled. But now I also find myself a David Levithan fan. Together, these men have written this incredible novel about two boys called Will Grayson, with each author narrating the story of each of the protagonists. And because I didn't know who was who until the end, my adoration of John Green spread to include Levithan.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a novel about two boys with the same name, both living completely different lives, who meet one day. The first Will Grayson is the quiet type, preferring to keep himself to himself rather than talk about his feelings. His best friend, the eccentrically camp Tiny Cooper, tries to set him up with Jane, but Will is reluctant to let himself develop a relationship. The other Will Grayson is dealing with depression. He is gay, but doesn't feel like it is anyone's business. Although they lead completely different lives and the first drafts were written without the authors consulting each other, similar challenges arise in the lives of both Will Graysons.
Again, John Green has perfected the skill of creating a clever, complicated teenage character. His Will Grayson is so easy to relate to, for any reader. He is good, his life is undramatic, and yet he is complex and real. He questions his friendships, resists romance, and retreats into his own world when things get difficult.
David Levithan's Will is similarly complex, but with different problems. He is clearly not okay with the fact his father is not around, and, although not ashamed of his sexuality, is unwilling to talk about it or anything else personal. In his prose, he writes in lower case - which acts to differentiate between the two narratives, as well as highlight Will's low opinion of himself. Levithan is open about the fact he wanted his Will to be in the middle of everything, particularly his depression. He is on medication, and his story is about life after the acknowledgement of mental illness; but that is only one small part of this beautifully emotional character.
Tiny is the bridge between the two Will Graysons. He is friends with the first Will Grayson, and dates the second. Tiny is the character who's inner narrative you do not hear, but who is brave enough to express himself, and teaches the other characters the power of honesty. He is incredibly brave, as he is able to admit his problems and share his dreams. He is loud and ridiculous and inspiring; just the kind of teenager who brings out the best in people. At the core of the novel is Tiny's musical, which transforms alongside the characters.
For me, this is a novel about truth and bravery. It is angry and funny in equal measure, and sometimes at the same time. With the help of the wonderful Tiny Cooper, the two Will Graysons learn and grow, breaking down the walls they have built up to protect themselves. As I reader, I feel it has made me braver, too. It has reminded me of the value of honesty, of sharing how I feel, and of letting go, letting myself experience life. This is one of the hardest things to do, but as Tiny says,
"stop thinking about the landing, because it's all about the falling."