One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers cross paths. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in heroic turns-of-heart and the most epic musical ever to grace the high-school stage.
First published: 2010
As long time followers of my blog will probably be aware of by now, I’m a big fan of John Green’s work, so I was excited to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the only novel of John’s I hadn’t read yet. Plus, not too long ago I read a short story by David Levithan and loved it, so that seemed like a very good sign as well. All in all, I started this novel with high hopes. I’m sad to say I was kind of disappointed.
I mean, I liked the writing (duh, it’s these two) and I enjoyed reading the book, but there were some parts of it that left me feeling a little uncomfortable and dissatisfied. There were also some bits I definitely related to and agreed with, but let’s just say this book wasn’t what I was used to with John’s novels.
The story took a completely different direction than I thought it would after reading the blurb. I thought it was going to be about the relationship between these two Will Graysons (either platonic or romantic — I didn’t really care), but their relationship hardly even features in the story. It’s actually all about the relationship of both Wills with Tiny Cooper, who is Will1’s best friend.
(damn, why do they both have to have the same name, this is getting so confusing) Will2 meets Tiny around the same time he meets Will1 and that same night Will2 and Tiny become boyfriends (I wouldn’t call it a relationship per se) and from there on out basically everything revolves around Tiny.
Now, in theory that would’ve been fine, although the whole “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” thing combined with the blurb is kind of false advertising. However, there are quite a few things about Tiny that rubbed me the wrong way. There’s the fact that I didn’t much like his personality, although I think that has a lot to do with the lack of depth the authors gave him. He just seems to be such a stereotype, and I have to admit I only really noticed this when a friend of mine mentioned to me how that had bugged him when he read the book. After that, though, I couldn’t see him in any other way than that stereotype. There’s not much more to him than his “gayness” (oh and his selfishness) and can we talk about that stupid musical? That just had me rolling my eyes all over the place. Although the ending was pretty sweet, and I’m a sucker for sweet endings.
Anyway, the one thing that really grinds my gears about this novel is the emphasis on how big Tiny is. It felt like this was mentioned on every other page, and at some point it just started to feel like plain old fat shaming. And that bothered me. Will1 is the one who mentions Tiny’s size most, although he speaks of it in vague terms, never using the word “fat”. When Will2 mentions it, however, it’s clear that Tiny is obese. But why, why, does this have to be emphasised so much? Tiny mentions himself that he’s sick of the fact that all people see when they look at him is his size.
Wow, this has turned into a bit of a rant, which wasn’t my intention at all when I started writing this review. I really enjoyed the writing in this novel, and if I stop focussing on Tiny, I liked the story as well. Both Will1 and Will2 go through quite the journey of self discovery, and that was really interesting to read about. Will2 struggles with depression, and what one point he said something that really resonated with me:
i think the idea of a ‘mental health day’ is something completely invented by people who have no clue what it’s like to have bad mental health. the idea that your mind can be aired out in twenty-four hours is kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal.
Will2 felt like quite a real person to me and I would’ve loved to see more of his relationship with Gideon. The same goes for Will1 and Jane. Those four were the interesting characters to me, and I very much enjoyed reading about them.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson had some truly heartwarming passages and also had me snigger from time to time. Fact is, I love John Green and David Levithan’s writing, and that’s not any different with this novel. I just wish the characters could’ve been explored a bit further. Overall, though, this was an enjoyable read.