The Fault in Our Stars is the first John Green novel I ever read. It is also the only John Green novel I ever enjoyed. After finishing it, I hunted down his other books and was soundly disappointed. They all had some variation of a dull male protagonist, his quirky unobtainable love interest, his far more interesting friends, and his oddly lenient parents. I couldn’t take it anymore after Paper Towns.
But that was a year ago, long enough for me to recover, and I am so happy I gave this book a chance. Together, John Green and David Levithan wrote a lovely story about relationships, both romantic and platonic, as well as overcoming the fear of intimacy.
First Green introduces Will Grayson, a standoffish guy whose two rules are “shut up” and “don’t care too much.” His main goal in high school is to attract as little attention as possible. However, going unnoticed is out of the question when your best friend is Tiny Cooper, “the world’s largest person who is really, really gay and also the world’s gayest person who is really, really large.” Everything Will’s not, Tiny is currently working on an autobiographical musical called – wait for it – Tiny Dancer.
This book definitely would have fallen flat if Will Grayson was the main character, and Tiny could have sooo easily have ended up as the Sassy Gay Friend™. Thankfully, Will stays in a Nick-Carraway-type role, where he firmly belongs. The book also benefits from the voice of the second narrator, David Levithan’s will grayson.
will grayson is an angsty, abrasive guy who has a bone to pick with the world. “i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me,” he says. will is on medication for depression; he’s gay but he hasn’t come out yet; and the only emotional connection he has is with isaac, a boy he met online. Despite coming from different worlds – well, Chicago suburbs anyway – Will Grayson and will grayson miraculously meet one night in the city. Romantic teenage shenanigans ensue… ?
These days, sincerity seems to be embarrassing. Showing that you care isn’t cool, and being a cynic is conflated with being a realist. And while I’m not any sort of teenage boy, I could easily identify with the narrators. In high school, I avoided forming close relationships – I still do, to some degree. Like Will Grayson, I tried really hard to be invisible. And like will grayson, I was angry and sarcastic. So I was touched to see both boys learn that connecting to another person – a friend, a parent, a partner – is okay. Yeah, you might get hurt or rejected, but if you want to find love and acceptance, you are going to have to take those risks. Tiny’s habit of falling in love could have been treated as a running gag – and it sorta is, in the beginning. But at the end, I realized that despite his previous disappointments, Tiny never stops opening himself up to other people, and that is a brave and wonderful thing.