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Will Grayson, Will Grayson Hardcover – April 6, 2010
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One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won them both legions of faithful fans.
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
An ALA Stonewall Honor Book
“Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a complete romp. [It is] so funny, rude and original that by the time flowers hit the stage, even the musical-averse will cheer.” —The New York Times Book Review
★“Will have readers simultaneously laughing, crying and singing at the top of their lungs.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“It is such a good book. [Green and Levithan] are two of the best writers writing today.” —NPR’sThe Roundtable
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Amazon Exclusive: David Levithan and John Green Talk About Names
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is about two teenage boys with the same name, whose lives intersect in unexpected ways. The book originated with the thought of giving two different boys the same name, and to give that name some meaning. It also comes from David's own experience. So to give you an inside peek at the making of the book, we figured it would be fun to give you insight into our own names, as well as Will Grayson’s.
To my knowledge, there are only two other David Levithans in the world – my dad’s cousin, and a lawyer in South Africa who, as far as we can tell, isn’t family. The last name Levithan is actually the invention of an immigration official – when my great-grandfather came to America from Russia, it should have translated to Levitan. But somehow the h got in there. Now, whenever I meet another Levithan (which is rare), odds are good that he or she is related to me.
That said, the story of Will Grayson, Will Grayson came from someone whose name is close to mine, but not identical. David Leventhal went to Brown at the same time I did, and people would confuse us often.
This ended up being something of a joke, because David was an extraordinary dancer, while I was…not an extraordinary dancer. So people would exclaim, “We had no idea someone as clumsy as you could be so graceful on stage!” and I’d have to say, “Well, un, that wasn’t me.” Finally, right before graduation, I contacted David and we met up. We became instant friends, and when we both moved to New York after college, we were always in each other’s company. The similarity of our names often threw people for a loop… and I thought, well, that might make an interesting story.
Amusingly, David Leventhal’s college roommate’s name was . . . Jon Green.
I was named after my great-grandfather, John Michael Crosby, an itinerant minor-league baseball manager and occasional catcher. I like my name, but being a John Green can certainly be inconvenient, because there are a lot of us. Among many others, there is John Green the realtor in Mississippi (who owns johngreen.com, much to my chagrin), John Green the Australian botanist, and of course John Green the world-renowned Bigfoot scholar. This last John Green, who is so revered in the field of Bigfoot research that he is often called “one of the four horseman of Sasquatchery,” is kind of my mortal enemy. I once wrote a magazine article in which I passingly noted that Bigfoot is, you know, fictional, and John Green replied with a letter arguing that my anti-Bigfoot stance was besmirching the good name of John Greens everywhere.
Such is the curse of being a John Green. Or a Will Grayson, for that matter.
We decided that I (David) would choose our character’s first name, and John would choose his last name. I liked the name Will because of its different, sometimes contradictory, meanings. As a noun, it can be so strong – where there’s a will, there’s a way, and whatnot. But as a verb, it’s split. Sometimes it’s just as definite (It will be done!), but that definiteness is underscored by an uncertainty – you say it will be done, but it hadn’t been done yet, has it? And put it at the start of a question (“Will you still love me tomorrow?”) and it becomes the entrance for all kinds of vulnerability. That seemed right for the characters.
I liked Grayson because whenever I would hear that name, it always sounded to me like “grace in,” which always struck me as a richly ambiguous phrase – is “grace in” the beginning of a clause or the end of it? Are we being asked to find grace in something, or to let grace in? Those questions seemed like interesting ones for the guy I wanted to write about.
From School Library Journal
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- Publisher : Dutton Books for Young Readers (April 6, 2010)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0525421580
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525421580
- Reading age : 14 - 17 years
- Lexile measure : 930L
- Grade level : 9 - 12
- Item Weight : 14.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.81 x 1.04 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #390,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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What I didn't like: This novel is in first person, present tense, switches between the POVs of the two Will Graysons, and has two different authors. Basically, it has all of the major things that tend to make a book exceedingly bad. I definitely give them points (okay, mostly John Green) for pulling this off well enough that it was still a good read, but it could have been a great one.
Green and Levithan chose three of the hardest things to pull off in a novel and, unsurprisingly, their book suffered:
1. You need to be a fantastic author to pull off first person without self-insertion, contrivance or cliché. You need to be an even better author to write fiction in present tense without annoying your reader or making tense change mistakes. These guys aren't fantastic. Judging solely from this book, David Levithan is fine and John Green is pretty good.
2. When you write a book from the POV of more than one character, every reader is bound to have a favorite and character development is extremely difficult. In the hands of an author who is less than genius, this always results in readers dreading certain parts and wishing others were longer. This technique also tends to make books feel disjointed and rushed. That's exactly what happened when I read this book. I disliked David Levithan's Will Grayson for the majority of the book. By the time I started to like him a little, it was too late. I loved John Green's Will Grayson, but I felt cheated out of a lot of time with him and found myself literally counting down the pages left before he was coming back.
3. The issues described in the previous point are exacerbated by the fact that the book has two different authors. It's tough for two people to collaborate and write an awesome, cohesive book, but it has been done. (See P.S. Longer Letter Later and its sequel for examples of this aimed at a younger audience.) While I was reading, I felt that the authors may not have spent enough time working on the book as a team.
They did an okay job, but almost all of the book's flaws are a result of the fact that they gave themselves unnecessary challenges that they couldn't handle. They're just not good enough writers (yet).
My final, quick criticisms of this book are:
1. Levithan's lower case was pointless and came off as pretentious, just like his character.
2. The ending of the book (the whole last chapter) was unfulfilling, stupid and unrealistic.
3. I thought the character of Jane was superfluous.
4. It's rarely a good idea to have current cultural references in a novel. This thing will be outdated in a couple of years.
5. I know it's petty, but the title is awful. I would have picked up this book when it first came out if it weren't for the title.
6. This is a popcorn book with themes that are very thin and thrown right in your face. Luckily, the non-serious nature of the book made it so that it didn't come off as heavy-handed, but that's also the flaw. It didn't come off as serious or meaningful either. This book lacks something that would make a reader think about it or feel anything after they've closed it. I started another book at the soonest possible moment. This just doesn't stick.
One last note:
I was on the phone with my friend last night, and I told him I was reading this book. I described both of the Will Graysons and their general storylines. He immediately guessed which one was written by John Green. Then, he told me things about the characters and story that I hadn't yet told him, saying that "all of his books are that exact same thing." I haven't read any of John Green's other offerings, so this point did not contribute to my overall star rating, but I did think it was worth bringing up.
Overall: There's no reason not to read this, and I don't necessarily regret spending money on it, but if I were you I would check it out at the library first before purchasing. It's definitely a fast, fun read, but it has glaring flaws.
By Chris Morlock on May 30, 2022
Although the story's narration is controlled by two teenage boys both names Will Grayson, the story line focuses on the extroverted and gay (in being both gleeful and homosexual) Tiny Cooper, a name ironic for his "more to love" body structure, and Tiny's musical about love, sexual identity, and the rises and falls that occur throughout life. Will Grayson, Tiny Cooper's best friend, is introverted and afraid to express himself but eventually overcomes his fears with the help of Tiny and a few epiphanies. The Other Will Grayson, whose place in the story will be revealed upon reading, has his heart lurched left to right as the reader follows his moody nonchalance towards love develop into the motto "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
The theme of homosexuality is seen from two different stand points: Tiny knows who he is, as does the rest of the world, and switches between who he loves as if he is changing television channels while the other Will Grayson's sexuality is hidden initially while he loves a boy who he had yet to meet deeper than most can expect someone in high-school to feel.
One of the best features of this young adult novel is how the reader becomes so connected to the characters, cheering them on when things are going right and feeling their hearts tremble when the characters experience heartache. The way the turmoil and triumph love brings in the novel as well as the strain love puts on friendship is far more mature and real than most novels of this genre, mostly due to the characters feelings being expressed through careful precaution, not sexual innuendos as some other novels may describe.
Although the entire book was an amazing read, the way some of the climaxes the novel presents came too early was frustrating, leaving the reader to finish the book out of curiosity and the hope for more surprises. The ending itself was a surprise but some may not feel fulfilled by it because, long past the end of the book, they (including myself) will still be connected to the lives of both Will Graysons, Tiny Cooper, and their friends as we wonder what happens to them after the last page of their story.
Top reviews from other countries
I can't say I wish I hadn't bothered with this book because I did finish it, so clearly something was pulling me in. But in this case, I think it was just a desire for the novel to get better at some point. Unfortunately, it didn't.
The novel is divided into two separate voices, both narrated by a seventeen-year-old boy named Will Grayson. They live within fairly close proximity to one another but attend different schools and lead relatively different lives. Their paths cross in the middle of the book, at which point their lives start to take a turn for the better. At least, I think it's supposed to be for the better. It's never completely clear.
I'll start with John Green's Will Grayson - Will Grayson No. 1 - although there is regrettably very little to say. His main personality trait seems to be that he is indecisive which, as far as personality traits of a protagonist go, does not exactly make for compelling reading. Other reviews have described him as likeable, but I don't think I could pinpoint one distinctive trait or quirk which points to this. I could not even tell you what he looks like, except that he's a white dude with wrinkled clothes. He's described as "not hot" and "annoying", but nonetheless he wins the heart of the novel's token Cool Girl, Jane. Jane already has a boyfriend, who is - and I quote from the novel here - "truly a wonder to behold", a "sculpted, immaculately conceived, rippling hunk" but she would rather go out with Will Grayson No. 1 with his wrinkled jeans because he shows up at her house one night with a question about Schrodinger's Cat, which I believe is supposed to be the 2010 YA novel equivalent of John Cusack holding up a boombox in Say Anything, but without one iota of the charm.
Will Grayson No.1's main issue seems to be that he has a crush on Jane, but also doesn't. He also agonizes over the fact that his best friend, Tiny Cooper, is an unbearable egomaniac who doesn't actually like him very much. This is the sum total of Will Grayson No. 1, and that is not an exaggeration.
Beginning with the first issue: I thought Will's aversion to dating Jane was going to develop into an interesting exploration of aromanticism or asexuality, as he says he just wants to "notice" her without having to actually date her. Unless I missed something significant, though, it turned out to be nothing much deeper than he didn't want her when she was single, but then she got a boyfriend and suddenly he did, because teenagers are fickle or whatever.
Jane is not a convincing romantic interest, but then, Will Grayson is not a convincing hero. Will likes her because she says pretentious things about pretentious bands and they have pretentious, baffling discussions about Schrodinger's Cat (honestly, what was the point of Green's whole Schrodinger spiel? It was like the failed precursor to that sickly-sweet 'Maybe okay will be our always' catchphrase from 'The Fault in Our Stars' that everyone used to write on their school bags). Jane absolutely reeks of Not Like Other Girls Syndrome, in that she is apparently prettier, smarter and funnier than everyone, but she never actually says anything especially smart or funny. Mostly, Will likes Jane because she smiles at him once when Tiny Cooper is passed out on the floor, and Will thinks this smile is nicer than the fake smiles on her Facebook profile. The level of convincing romance is practically tantamount to Pride & Prejudice. Jane also gives Will $100 for a fake ID which he never has to pay her back. Maybe that's why he likes her.
As for the second issue: Will's dilemma with Tiny Cooper is never really resolved. They have been best friends since childhood, but constantly complain about each other. They have a heart-to-heart towards the end of the book, where Tiny tells Will he's difficult and "so self-involved" and Will tells Tiny that "being gay is not an excuse for being a dick" but they make up anyway because, basically, according to John Green, you don't choose your friendships, you just fall into them and get stuck there. Happy days.
Now for David Levithan's Will Grayson - Will Grayson No. 2. Of the two voices, I'd say I preferred this one, but that's like saying I prefer a headache to a migraine. Again, I could not tell you a lot about this Will except that he is simultaneously "wiry" and "adorable", and is usually rude to people around him for no discernible reason.
Will No. 2 struggles with depression, which at times feels like it's used as a tool to justify how awful he is to everybody, including his mother and friends. His mental health issues are never discussed on any intricate level, rather they just feel like background noise to justify the horrible things he says and does, and to explain away his constant self-loathing and desire to "kill everyone" around him. Maybe Levithan was just trying to get that moody teenager vibe down, but the discussion of depression felt at times clumsy and somewhat insensitive.
This Will is also beginning to explore his sexuality. This could have been interesting, but the discussion surrounding it is just downright confusing. He shows evidence of internalised homophobia, describing his French teacher as a "sadistic loser" who gives them "gay projects". He tells Tiny Cooper "I don't like gay people", before proceeding to make out with him on a bench and become his boyfriend. When later in the novel Will comes out to his mother and subsequently his whole school, he does so in a very defiant, confident way, which could be very inspiring were it not for the constant mixed messaging over how Will actually feels about his sexuality. He says he's "not really that gay" because he doesn't like Madonna. He describes kissing a girl at a party (apparently, he's a loner and a loser but he gets invited to parties anyway) as "actually hot" and says "hands are hands, and touch is touch, and your body's going to react the way your body's going to react." Honestly, if I didn't know Levithan were a gay author, I would think a heterosexual male had written that.
Meanwhile, he makes consistently awful, derogatory comments about his actual boyfriend, focusing mainly on Tiny's size which - make no doubt about it, kids! - is absolutely immense, and neither author wants you to forget it. Will No. 2 says it's "sick" that he finds Tiny attractive, and compares the attraction to seeing an aesthetically pleasing baby (I am not making this up). He calls Tiny "as big as a house", a "big blob of humanity" and is surprised that he doesn't feel "repulsion" when he's with him. Seriously, is this supposed to be the romantic partnership we're rooting for? If this novel is intended to spark joy and pride in young gay teens - particularly those exploring their sexuality for the first time themselves - it completely misses the mark. At one point, Will No. 2 laments that he never asked to be gay, as if we could not already tell that from his constant disparaging remarks about the only boy who shows genuine interest in him.
The two characters' lives converge in the middle of the story. Will Grayson No. 1 is ditched by his wonderful friends, Tiny and the Uh-mazing Jane, to go to a concert that he can't get into because he's underage (his "best friend" Tiny is not sympathetic, and just laughs at him), while Will Grayson No. 2 is meeting up with Isaac, who does not exist and is a fabrication of his sociopathic friend Maura. I read somewhere that Levithan and Green wanted the meeting of the Wills to be life-changing, but their conversation is lukewarm at best, and the only thing I can give the scene credit for is 1) the amusing location in which they meet and 2) the surprisingly inventive way in which they discover they're both named Will Grayson. Life-changing the exchange is not. All it results in is a brief relationship between the completely incompatible Tiny Cooper and Will Grayson No. 2, and Will Grayson No. 1 buying a Spanish porn magazine which he then leaves on the roadside like an uncivilised fly-tipper.
Finally, we must discuss Tiny Cooper. What a strange, confusing character. While he has occasional bouts of likeability, he is mostly nauseating, and the novel is constantly trying to drive home this idea that Tiny is some Messianic figure who brings people together, when actually he's just an overbearing meddler. He spends the entire novel putting on a production of a musical about himself, in which apparently no school staff are involved but for which student council have granted him a thousand dollars' worth of funding. At first, it seems this musical is all about Tiny's ego, but then - no! Wait! It's actually about Tiny's love for people - and then, oh, no. By the end, it's revealed that actually, yes, the musical was all about Tiny's ego. Maybe my school was just vanilla with its bog-standard productions of Oliver! and The Sound of Music, but I just want to take a moment to ask in what world would a school approve and fund a musical written, directed and performed by a pupil, whose sole subject matter is that one specific pupil and his string of dull white male friends and exes? Tiny is also a star football player, but apparently has time to orchestrate this musical single-handedly, because, you know, why bother exploring anything in a novel that isn't surface level teen romance?
The rest of the book's characters are similarly vapid, and seem to serve no real purpose beyond driving convenient plot points. Gary, Nick? Who are these people, and what kind of teenager is called Gary? Derek, Simon? We don't even get physical descriptions. I'm not asking for Wuthering Heights, but just a hair colour would be nice. Maura is vindictive and cruel, but gets no comeuppance and instead actually gets an apology from Will No. 2. Mind-boggling. Gideon was sweet and would have been a more satisfactory love interest for Will No. 2, but he gets about three lines of dialogue. Will No. 1's parents are surgeons so they're presumably intelligent people, but they just come across as pretty boring and absent, his mother simply reduced to a catchphrase ("back by eleven"). Will No. 2's mom is probably the most interesting character in the book, and the scene where Tiny gifts her a glass bowl is quite touching. I'd rather read about her girls' poker nights than any of this sorry lot of mopey, pretentious teenagers.
All in all, was this the worst YA LGBT book I've ever read? Probably not, but when there's a plethora of realistic, original, heart-warming alternatives, I'd give this one a solid miss. Even Becky Albertalli's sugary tidbits 'Love, Simon' and 'Leah on the Offbeat' were more tolerable than this, but for truly decent LGBT focused YA books, I would recommend 'Release' by Patrick Ness, and most of Adam Silvera's work. They, at least, can pen likeable characters who are neither ashamed nor resentful of their sexuality.
I didn't mind the lower-case formatting of Will No. 2's chapters as much as other reviewers seem to. Occasionally, I misread a comma as a full stop or vice versa, but that was about the only issue. I also think it's quite obvious that the alternating chapters are voiced by different characters, and you only have to read the brief blurb to be aware of this, so I don't think this is a fair criticism.
The two stars are for the fact it has quick, easy-to-read chapters (definitely something you could read on an aeroplane) and one of Tiny's text conversations with Will No. 2 made me chuckle. These are not compelling enough reasons to read this book.
The story, told in turns by Will and Will, follows events leading up to Tiny's school stage musical production, and involves his many love affairs, most of which are of very short duration, and his search for love and truth. In fact the novel is all very much about love and truth.
Will Grayson X 2 is a really entertaining read, frequently very funny, yet sometimes thought provoking; it steadily builds to what we are sure must be a grand finale, and we will not disappointed, but that is not to say that we will not be surprised - and for that we have to wait to the very end.
So what can I say about this book? It's certainly different and the fact that their are two authors and two voices (the book is written from the perspective of both Will Grayson and the other Will Grayson!) is quite appealling. After reading Departure by A.G Riddle I was quite taken with this concept and this book delivers it in a thoughtful comic style. The characters are huge (in more ways than one) and they keep you interested in the unfolding storyline of how teenagers are thrown into the world confused and lost.
It certainly is a page turner. Both characters pretty much have nothing in common other than their name and their inability to meet a significant other. I was really looking forward to their meeting and read as fast as I could to get there. The inventive and unbelievably funny way this happens is endearing and reflective of how the book progresses. I'd certainly recommend this book to anyone, irrespective of their favoured genre and it is certainly a departure from the norm.
That being said, compared to the rest of Green's works, this one is probably my least favourite. It's hard to develop dimensional and intriguing characters when every chapter is written differently. I guess, by its nature, this book can't be consistent, and that's something you either love or don't. I didn't, particularly.
If you're a fan of either of these authors' works - I suggest you pick up Will Grayson, Will Grayson. You will laugh, maybe even get tears in your eyes. But if this is your first introduction (to John Green, at least) I'd advise you to pick up one of his other works first. Particularly Looking for Alaska or The Fault in our Stars! They show off much better what he's capable of.