Book Title: Will Grayson Will Grayson
Authors: John Green & David Levithan
Category: fiction: young adult, fiction: collaboration
I associate John Green with many things: Meeting amazing friends. The Internet. Youtube. Nerdfighters.
But mostly, I associate John Green with great YA fiction.
When I found out about Will Grayson Will Grayson (WGWG) I was intrigued. I have read all of John’s books, and never would have considered not reading Will Grayson Will Grayson. (Wow. Double negatives. Excellent use of the English language Pippa. Glad this whole blogging business is working out for you) But the only thing by David Levithan that I had read previously, was a short story in the anthology Geektastic.
It seemed like a very unique and interesting premise for a novel: two authors, two main characters, and one unlikely similarity – the name Will Grayson.
Once I got over the initial shock of the utter disregard for capitalization of any kind that David Levithan’s Will Grayson has, I started to enjoy the differences between the two styles, and the two completely different Will Graysons. (Wills Grayson?) Normally character names, are almost by necessity, unique, and exploring the world through the eyes of two people with the same name gives the entire book an interesting slant. I don’t know about people with more well known or commonly used names, but whenever I have met another Pippa, or another Philippa, it’s been somewhat disorienting for me, trying to figure out if we share certain character traits, or similarities due only to the commonalities of our names.
Like much YA fiction out there, the main theme of the novel revolves around love. But Levithan and Green accomplish this in WGWG in two distinctly unconventional ways – firstly, they write about love in a way that isn’t movie-character love. It feels real, and the way that Green writes about unrequited love is especially poignant.
“Why would you like someone who can’t like you back?”
The question is rhetorical, but if I wasn’t trying to shut up, I’d answer it: You like someone who can’t like you back because unrequited love can be survived in a way that once-requited love cannot. (pg 43)
Most of the major loves of my time in high school were unrequited – it was safer, especially for someone like me, who was so guarded and shy that I hardly ever acted upon them.
But: The part I enjoy most is not the doing, but the noticing. Noticing the way she smells like oversugared coffee, and the difference between her smile and her photographed smile, and the way she bites her lower lip, and the pale skin of her back. I just want the pleasure of noticing these things at a safe distance – I don’t want to have to acknowledge that I am noticing. I don’t want to talk about it or do stuff about it. (pg 47)
Ah the joys of Facebook stalking.
But seriously, I find this extremely real. It’s that time when you have a crush on someone, but you haven’t yet admitted it to yourself, thinking that if you don’t acknowledge it you won’t have to do anything about it. And you certainly haven’t admitted it to your friends yet, because then they’d talk to you about it, and ask you questions about it, and you’d have to admit your feelings to yourself. And then what would you do? At the same time though I’m reminded of the words of Adam Dubberly (from the Wizard Rock Band, The Mudbloods – I know, I know, don’t judge until you’ve listend to their stuff),
And F. Scott says that unrequited love will tear you up from the inside, til there’s next to nothing left. So don’t wait, and god don’t pine, cause in the end its just a distant green light. (From “Books Say & I Say”)
Secondly, they acknowledge the existence of gay teenagers.
I don’t ever remember reading any YA fiction about anything other than hetero-normative relationships in my entire reading experience as a young adult. The only books I’ve read about GLBTA teenagers have been since I’ve left high school (and my time in high school was as recently as 2000-2005) and I read a lot of books in high school. Reading WGWG is the only time I’ve actually realized the void of GLBTA themes in YA literature. It makes complete sense that there should be more, but I suppose its still not quite as mainstream to have these sorts of things explored in teen reading materials? I don’t know. But its something that definitely needs to be fixed.
But WGWG is even more a story about friendship, true friendship than it necessarily is about romantic love. And this novel tells that story just as eloquently and completely as it does the other.
But with friendship, there’s nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that’s something you choose. Being friends, that’s just something you are. (pg 260)
Plus there’s this line:
I can feel my fake ID in my front pocket, tight against my thigh, and it feels like I’ve got a ticket to the whole frakking world. (pg 54)
Battlestar Galactica references for the frakking win.
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For more YA fiction that acknowledges gay relationships check out Maureen Johnson’s The Bermudez Triangle or anything else by David Levithan – including his story in Geektastic: Stories from the nerd herd.