Sunday, 3 February 2013

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

John Green & David Levithan

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, teenager Will Grayson crosses paths with . . . Will Grayson! Two teens with the same name who run in two very different circles suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions. Culminating in epic turns-of-heart on both of their parts, they team up to produce the most fabulous musical ever to grace the high-school stage.  

I’ve been a fan of John Green for a few years now, discovering, like many others his video blogs with his brother Hank. When it came time to read his novels I expected to enjoy them but not half as much as I did.
The only problem with John Green’s writing is that I didn’t discover it sooner. Reading them in my late teens I quickly realised that these were the books I had needed throughout my early teenage years, books that don’t condescend or judge, books that showcase a very genuine, brutally honest view of teenage life and shake off the clichés of film and tv.
John Green’s characters are vulnerable, awkward, occasionally jerks, often wrong and, well, real.

This book is a collaboration with long time friend David Levithan, a writer who sadly I know little else about.
It features two characters, both named Will Grayson, with each one being written by one of the authors in alternate chapters.
John Green’s Will Grayson (who, for the sake of ease, we’ll call W1) is an awkward boy, forced constantly to suffer his overly flamboyant friend Tiny as he puts on a musical based on his life named Tiny Dancer.
In contrast, David Levithan’s Will Grayson (W2) is a completely introverted boy, suffering depression while coming to terms with his homosexuality.

The portrayal of homosexuality in the novel is simply brilliant, from Levithan particularly. He makes no big deal of the fact that W2 is gay, there is no dramatic reveal, no fireworks, he’s simply gay.
It sounds so bizarre to compliment a writer on treating a gay character like a human being but sadly it’s rarely the case. In the majority of media, film, tv, novels, homosexuality is always treated as an issue to be dealt with. Characters must wait for their episode where their father pats them on the back and finally accepts his gay son, or a character must hide their true self from another character with “hilarious results”. These clichés are non existent here. W2 is simply gay, nothing more need be said. It’s incredibly refreshing.

Another great thing about W2 is…well, he’s kind of a prick. For the first few chapters he’s a genuinely unlikeable character, this may not seem like a compliment but this basic flaw serves to make W2 a very realistic character. It also serves to make his gradual shift to likeability more rewarding.

As for W1, well, sadly I have to admit that this is probably my least favourite piece of writing I’ve read from John Green. It’s still well written with great characters but I couldn’t shake the feeling that W1 simply wasn’t as engaging to me as W2. His character locks stuff away so perhaps we’re left with little on the surface on purpose but for me he simply didn’t work as well as he could.

This is a great novel however, the alternating chapters work well and are at the perfect length, meaning you never get tired of reading one will waiting for the next.
I had a couple minor issues, the chapters with W1 often had extracts from Tiny’s songs from his musical which were awkward to read not knowing what the tune was meant to be (songs in books are one my pet hates) and the IM chat in W2’s chapters was occasionally difficult to read, but these are minor complaints.

I couldn’t recommend this enough, readers of any age would love it but it’s definitely best to read it around the 14-15 age group, it’s a novel that helps show you, in that most awkward and difficult stage of you’re life, that you’re normal, and you’re going to be fine.

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