Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Original blurb published on January 1, 2012.

Authors John Green and David Levithan alternate chapters to tell the stories of two teenagers named Will Grayson, who both happen to live in the Chicago suburbs and end up meeting in a most unconventional way. Loved it! Both storylines were great, and it only made me love John Green more.

From my review for Materials For Youth class, written in April 2011:

Considering Will Grayson, Will Grayson as realistic fiction, as defined by Donelson and Nilson (2005), as quoted in the lecture by Dr. Moeller:

PLOT: Is it “interesting and believable… centering around a problem that a young person might really have,” yet not “predictable”?
At its core, Will Grayson, Will Grayson tells the stories of teenagers who experience conflict in both friendship and romance—which are problems that basically every teenager experiences at some point.  Both Wills feel friendless at times, struggle to understand their own romantic feelings (both heterosexual and homosexual), and grow immensely in their relationships with their parents.  According to Jessica Miller, “the authors address friendship, self-identity and acceptance, true love, family, and prejudice” (62).  From these overarching ideas, Green and Levithan create a memorable story.  In no way could readers predict a novel in which Will begins to acknowledge his feels for Jane at a GSA meeting, or the two Wills would eventually cross paths at a Chicago porn shop.


CHARACTERS: Are they realistic, with a “balance of good and negative qualities,” neither “too good or too bad to be believed”?
All of the major characters have both good and bad moments.  Will isn’t initially a very sympathetic friend to Tiny in the present, but their shared memories of childhood explain the depth of their friendship.  will (lowercase) is full of angst most of the time, but in assembling all of Chicago’s Will Graysons at the end, he shows that he has learned to appreciate other people.  As Claire E. Gross writes, “The Wills are almost painfully easy to relate to” (81).  Tiny is the biggest surprise of all—no pun intended.  While he falls in and out of love frequently and seems to take Will’s friendship for granted, his last conversation with will (243-246) reveals how deeply he does feel hurt and his production of “Hold Me Closer” demonstrates his deep appreciation of Will’s ongoing friendship.  Even Maura, who is portrayed as a “hag” for most of the book, is given a bit of a reprieve in her final conversation with will (276-277), in which she reveals her own sadness.


SETTING: Does it contribute to the story, and is it “described so the reader can get the intended picture”?
Both Wills’ worlds are described with enough detail to allow the reader to visualize them.  I particularly loved how Tiny recreated the most significant scenes (such as the baseball dugout he shared with Will, or the swingset where he broke up with will) for his musical.


THEME: Is it “worthwhile” and “leave the reader with something to think about” without being “preachy”?  Does it have “universal appeal so that it speaks to more than a single group of readers”?
The book begins with a memorable scene in which Will disproves the old adage and concludes, “In short: I cannot pick my friend; he cannot pick his nose; and I can—nay, I must—pick it for him” (21).  While the life lessons do become more serious after this, they do not become any less memorable.  Diane P. Tuccillo writes, “Based on the premises that ‘love is tied to truth’ and being friends, that’s just something you are,’ this powerful, thought-provoking, funny, moving, and unique plot is irresistible” (158).


STYLE: Is the dialogue natural, or is it “forced or inappropriate to the characters”?
The characters speak with beautifully natural voices.  Each Will Grayson is completely distinct, and Tiny has his own unique voice as well.  Texts, IM conversations, and song lyrics are woven neatly into the text.  However, according to Library Media Connection, “The language is extremely graphic with excessive profanity” (71), so I would only recommend this book for high school age or older.

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