Sometimes when I decide to read a book, I don’t read the synopsis on the back cover or the specific praise from various newspapers or book review sites inside the front cover. Sometimes I just really like (one of) the authors*, and I read that someone on Pajiba liked it better than The Fault in Our Stars and was up-voted seven times, and I find it at the store when I’m feeling impulsive, and I just read it with no plot information whatsoever.
(*I love John Green. This fact about me has been well-established. I don’t mean that I dislike David Levithan, at all, I just didn’t know him until I read this book. Based solely on Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I would impulsively read another by him without reading the synopsis, because he is funny and awesome, and he also seems to curse a lot, which is the Way to my heart.)
That’s how I ended up about fifty pages into Will Grayson, Will Grayson, thinking, “Jesus, does this kid have dissociative identity disorder, or are we in parallel dimensions, or what?” No, the titular characters, Will Grayson and Will Grayson, are actually two separate teenage boys who both live near Chicago and happen to have the same name. Which I would have known if I’d read the back cover, but whatever, it was fun wondering what the hell was going on.
I was about fifty pages from the end of the book before I noticed that the cover is supposed to look like the view from a stage when house lights are down and the spotlights are up. Then I read the praise on the inside cover and thought, “Oh, does everyone think this whole story is about the musical that’s coming up?” Yup. All the praise is like, “Standing ovation!” and stuff like that, which really makes Will Grayson, Will Grayson seem like it should be called Glee: The Novel, which it definitely is not. It’s a lot more than that. So I think in that case my lack of research served me well.
This book is about two Will Graysons who are very different, but have plenty in common, mostly that they both have trouble figuring out exactly what they want from many relationships in their lives– friends, parents, and especially romantic partners. (Ah, high school.) (I say that like it’s totally different than being an adult.) They also have to navigate their relationship to each other, for you see, the Will Graysons in this story meet in a pretty hilarious way. And they also have to figure out their relationship to Tiny Cooper, who is one Will’s best friend and another Will’s romantic interest. (The ironically-named Tiny is the giant pictured at left.)
This teen book is interesting and refreshing because it has two main characters who are gay, and neither of them is the troperific neutered gay best friend. This teen book is interesting and refreshing because it has lots of swear words and is more realistic than straight-up romances or dystopian adventures (obviously). I really like the rare books and movies that feature characters with the same or similar first names, because it’s interesting and it happens in real life (yet another reason why 3 is the best Final Destination, R.I.P. Ashley and Ashlyn), but characters with the same first and last name is just a great idea.
But the reason I really loved this book, teen novel or not, is because one of the Wills is depressed, and like. You guys. They kind of nailed it. I love a great depiction of a depressed person. Even if my personal depression isn’t exactly like Will Grayson’s (though it definitely hits home–I feel you, with the unreliable feelings and the overwhelming shame, Will), any depiction of a complicated depression is so welcome. Society is getting better about talking and understanding depression, but we’ve still got a long way to go. So thank you, David and John.
But this is not a tear-jerker or even a super angst-y downer. It’s hilarious–I laughed out loud several times, and read a few parts out loud to my family. Levithan and Green did a great job on the snarky sarcasm and funny inner monologues of the two Wills. And it’s a unique story with an interesting premise. The musical ending is kind of corny, but also pretty adorable. I’m glad I read this book, and mostly glad I didn’t read any of the words on the outside covers. 🙂