Some book openers take you to a world beyond the mundane, making you question all the philosophies you have held to yourself. Or, you could do it the classic John Green way: “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.’ ”
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is written from the perspective of two narrators, both sharing the same name and hence the title of the book. The narrators change alternatively where the odd numbered chapters are written by John Green and the even by David Levithan. Incidentally, the lives of the two Will Graysons intersect one February night in Chicago in the most dramatic way possible.
The first Will seemed remarkable for two reasons: first, his annoying rules to protect himself and make him seem like he doesn’t care; and second, his life being overshadowed by his best friend Tiny Cooper. It’s as if Tiny were written as a satire to gay stereotypes: he’s comically ginormous, way too flamboyant and very, very gay. Although not one of the narrators, Tiny is one of the central characters who is responsible for the connection and spiritual growth of both the Wills.
The second Will Grayson, although another homosexual individual, is nothing close to Tiny. With misfitting friendships, financial problems and a single mother, the only escape for this clinically depressed teen is his online interaction with his secret love interest Isaac. I think Levithan did a great job at portraying how debilitating mental illness can be and also showed that it doesn’t have to hold someone back from getting better.
Although at first, I found all the flaws in the characters too annoying, I think it was a perfect base for radical growth. Their problems were similar to what I had faced at their age, which made them so relatable. I’d argue that the character development seemed too sudden and a bit extreme, but that’s also what makes the book memorable.
The writers somehow manage to make homosexuality the central theme of the book without making it overpowering, though I would point out there seems to be, almost satirically, too many gay man.
In my opinion, it’s a great read for anyone coming of age. The musical, literary and a bit of quantum physics references and immaculate humour kept me immersed all the way through. The book deals with a lot of hurdles of puberty: exploring and accepting one’s sexuality, self growth, love and friendship, catfishing being a few of them.
Every time the characters decided to do something unthinkable, I found myself growing a little as well. The literally dramatic ending kept me in a trance for a week. It is a memoir of my own teenage years. Overall, I’d rate it 4/5.