I’ve been known to geek out over certain books. Not so long ago, I geeked out over my love for The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I called it one of the most epic novels that have shaped my life, right up there with The Catcher in the Rye.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan has now joined those ranks.
This is one of those books that got a lot of industry buzz leading up to its release — after all, you’ve got two of publishing’s most well-known names writing a book together for young adults (older young adult readers, most notably). And the buzz was good — so I was already excited to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson even before the book came out. But when I actually did read it, I was blown away. No amount of buzz and good press could have prepared me for what this book would mean to me.
Let me begin with a quick summary of the plot: There are two boys, both with the name Will Grayson. Both live in suburbs near Chicago. Both are in high school. Their stories are told in alternating chapters. And then, on a cold night in Chicago, the two Will Graysons meet — in all weird places — at a porn shop. And from there, the Will Graysons lives are sent in whole new directions.
Each Will Grayson is a strong enough character to be the star of his own book, but by alternating between the two boys and connecting their stories, Green & Levithan have created a powerful novel about growing up, friendship and love. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a coming of age story in the truest sense, and it’s told in a refreshing, modern and accessible voice. Teens today will relate to the Wills experiences — while older readers like myself can still recognize the same experiences and emotions in the characters to look back nostalgically and relate.
At the very heart of Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the epitome of the high school experience. We’re all struggling to figure out who we are, who we want to be, and what we want out of life. We’re learning what it means to be a good friend; to fall in love. We all make mistakes, and so do the characters in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. And like all of us, they learn from their mistakes and grow from the experience — not in a cheesy, after-school-special or Lifetime movie of the week type of way. But rather, they learn and grow realistically — in the same way we all do. We are embarassed. We have regrets. We mope around. Then we pick ourselves back up and try to fix it.
One thing I found particularly refreshing in Will Grayson, Will Grayson were the strong parental figures featured in both boys’ lives. The role of parents in Young Adult lit has been an on-going debate lately, especially in regards to the large volume of books where the parental figures are either absent or lacking in their parenting abilities. Now, don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with these types of books. In fact, I really like a lot of these books (such as Twilight, Shiver, The Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Darkness and countless others).
But it’s nice, for a change, to see parents in a Young Adult book who are supportive, present, and attentive. And besides offering a refreshing alternative to many of the not-so-nice parents featured in other YA books, the adults in Will Grayson, Will Grayson offer something else to the novel: familiarity. Because, let’s face it, as teens, we all get frustrated with our parents from time to time. But for the most part, most parents share the same qualities as those in the novel: they are supportive, present and attentive. They only want what’s best for their kids; they want them to succeed and live up to their potential. These qualities in the parents in Will Grayson, Will Grayson make the novel that much more accessible to readers; we can relate to the characters on one more level.
Here is the official synopsis:
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.
And here is a video from co-author John Green reading from the beginning of Will Grayson, Will Grayson in a video he made shortly before the book’s release. And it’s kind of epic hearing him read from the book: