Long before The Fault in Our Stars had teenagers across the world weeping, John Green collaborated with David Levithan to write Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a novel about two boys with the same name.
The novel remains true to the John Green style of exploring complex adolescent issues that don’t get solved by the final sentence. Instead they play out inside the minds and lives of his readers, much like the intersecting X that he and David Levithan structured the novel around.
Green wrote the odd numbered chapters about Will Grayson while Levithan wrote even numbered ones about will grayson, two teenage boys with struggles that appear different on the surface but which are really just variations on the theme of love.
The exploration of different kinds of love is central to the novel in overt and covert ways. Tiny Cooper’s loud and fabulous musical is declared to be about love. “Bigger than all of us,” Tiny says. But the more subtle and fundamental types of love are at play here too: romantic love, self-love, the love between best friends (which the novel elevates to pedestal heights) and yes, unrequited love.
I tried something new where I dived into the novel without having a read a blurb or any kind of summary – I was totally in the dark. It was exciting to watch the plot unfold and reveal itself. It’s the kind of plot that just meanders along until you get this great big “Oh!” moment when all the previously unconnected factors collide. It was Newtonian in its execution. It was fascinating to watch all the pieces of novel – characters, plot, motives – shift and change after the intersection of what had been two completely separate lines of writing.
The characters were endearing. Tiny Cooper “the world’s largest person who is really, really gay” and “the world’s gayest person who is really, really large” can be argued into the role of protagonist, both Will Graysons being rather more sidekick in personality. Jane Turner, Will Grayson’s love interest, was charmingly adolescent, the alt-girl of your dreams.
And the issues the novel delves into are universal. The struggle of identity is played out on the pages as Will Grayson fights against his self-imposed rules, as Tiny flamboyantly embraces who he is, as will grayson copes with shattering revelations. Issues that lower to middle class white suburban teenagers can relate to. This isn’t a book that deals with problems of race or religion, but I think its principles are still relatable. At heart it remains a truly poignant glimpse into the tumultuously emotional world of the American adolescent.