will grayson, will grayson

When John Green and David Levithan got together to make a novel, they took a seemingly silly premise and make it sing.  Two boys both named Will Grayson from nearby suburbs of Chicago cross paths in a wildly unlikely way.  We follow their alternating narration from chapter to chapter, these two Will Graysons.  I can just hear the authors giggling at the set up.

Will Grayson #1 is the best friend of big, gay, soon-to-be high school musical director Tiny, and he has two rules:  "1. Don't care too much.  2.  Shut up.  Everything unfortunate that has ever happened to me has stemmed from failure to follow one of the rules." (p. 5)  As Tiny's amazing gay musical takes off, this Will Grayson feels left out, alone, but he does begin to cozy up to new friend and soon-to-be girlfriend Jane.  Tiny set him up with Jane, but Will Grayson #1 is still feeling strange about how he and Tiny seem to be growing apart as the big day of the production approaches. 

The other Will Grayson is himself gay, albeit deeply closeted at school, and, after a failed attempt to meet his online paramour "Isaac" in Chicago leads him to a porn store... well, to save the spoilers, he runs into the other Will Grayson, they meet and marvel, and Will Grayson #2 quickly becomes Tiny's boyfriend.  So quickly that it's a bit too intense, of course, as these things are wont to be on the high school romance front.  But WG#2 comes out to his mom in a scene that ranks pretty high in all-time teen-parent interactions:

     "mom:  how was chicago?
      me:  look, mom, i'm totally gay, and i'd appreciate
      it if you could get the whole freakout over with 
     now, because, yeah, we have the rest of our lives to deal 
     with it, but the sooner we through the agony part, the better.
     mom: the agony part?
     me:  you know, you praying for my soul and cursing
     me for not giving you grandbabies with a wifey and
     saying how incredibly disappointed you are.
     mom:  you really think i'd do that?
     me: it's your right, i guess.  but if you want to skip that
     step, it's fine with me.
     mom:  i think i want to skip that step."

The thing is, the story is big and overdone and maybe there are too many details... maybe that's a given in this kind of collaboration.  I'd like to say that Green's more measured outlook is wildly complemented by Levithan's bouncier prose (see Boy Meets Boy for the ultimate example), but I'm not sure they haven't reversed their usual world views here.  The authors state that they did, in fact, write this in alternating chapters, but it's Levithan whose Will Grayson is clinically depressed, though he does pull off the most triumphant post-break-up appreciation of Tiny at the end.  And Green's Will Grayson is a little (okay, a lot) insecure and self-absorbed, though he comes around in the end too.

So that's the review.  All thumbs up.  Read it, revel in it, enjoy it, and score one for a novel about gay teenagers that is populated by multi-dimensional characters at every turn. 

A few of my favorite quotes:

About best friends:  "I think about how much depends upon a best friend.  When you wake up in the morning you swing your legs out of bed and you put your feet on the ground and you stand up.  You don't scoot to the edge of the bed and look down to make sure the floor is there.  The floor is always there.  Until it's not." (193)

About sex and love:  "How can our sentient fucking lives revolve around something slugs can do.  I mean, who you want to screw and whether you screw them?  Those are important questions, I guess.  But they're not that important.  You know what's important?  Who would you die for?  Who do you wake up at five forty-five in the morning for even though you don't know why he needs you?  Whose drunken nose would you pick?" (259)

About friendship troubles:  "When you date someone, you have the markers along the way, right:  You kiss, you have The Talk, you say the Three Little Words, you sit on a swing set and break up. [...]  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." (260)

On breaking up:  "this is why we call people exes, i guess--because the paths that cross in the middle end up separating at the end.  it's too easy to see an X as a cross-out.  it's not, because there's no way to cross out something like that.  the X is a diagram of two paths." (277)

On what is hot:  "'Compassion is hot,' she says as we kiss."(292)

A concluding aside:  That's the last book to be read as a full-on nonstop read until November draws to a close.  I hereby declare for the world to hear (hi, world) that I will get this article written and submitted by Monday, November 29, and I'll do it the way I usually do when motivation is low:  by starting a couple of really amazing books and making myself write so that I can read chapters as rewards.  Doctorow's For the Win and Westerfield's Leviathan are on the agenda.  If those get too bleak, I'll be back to YA romance/realistic fiction or whatever motivates the writing.

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