Monday, September 3, 2012

A review of David Levithan and John Green's "Will Grayson, Will Grayson"

Here we are again. I'm yet again reviewing a John Green book, but this time, he's writing it with fellow YA author David Levithan. It tells the stories of two separate people named Will Grayson (who live in Naperville and Evanston, Illinois, respectively), whose paths eventually cross due to a chance encounter, and whose lives are eventually changed for the better because of it. This book seems disparate in tone at times, because the chapters alternate between the two Will Graysons' perspectives, but both perspectives complement each other.

David Levithan's chapters (about the Naperville Will Grayson) tell a delicate, melancholy story about coming of age, and a gay youth's quest for meaning and love, but is also bitterly funny. This Will Grayson knows he has made mistakes, is in touch with himself, but not with others, which adds a sharp edge to his sometimes laugh out loud internal monologue. His personality has the right balance of jaded sarcasm and emotional vulnerability to make me actually care about him.

John Green's sections (about the Evanston Will Grayson), like usual, are a sharp,fizzy screwball comedy of manners about a straight teen's identity crisis that zips along at a nice pace. My main issue with his sections is the same issue I always have had with Green's work: the main character is annoying. This Will Grayson is a non-committal, indecisive, mealymouthed milquetoast whose various neuroses irritate me like usual. But also as usual, Green writes the dialogue and narration outstandingly well, and his typical bitingly witty, John-Hughes-meets-Woody-Allen blend of comedy seems to be surprisingly looser and less glum in this work.

A standout in both plots is the character of Tiny Cooper, a gay youth that has such an outsize personality, that I'm surprised he doesn't have his own spinoff book yet. The way the two threads come together is marvelously realistic, but also fairytale-y enough to be fun, and the ending is entertainingly optimistic. Overall,  a great collaboration worth checking out.

Grade: A-

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