Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Review; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Written by: David Levithan and John Green

Published: 2010

Synopsis: Will Grayson meets Will Grayson. One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers are about to cross paths. From that moment on, their world will collide and Iives intertwine.

It's not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chiacago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old - including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire - Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most awesome high school musical. (via Goodreads)

That's what the voices in your head are for, to get you through the silent parts.

I debated with myself about whether or not I should write this review. Like the last two John Green novels I've reviewed there was stuff in here I liked and stuff I really didn't care for and I didn't want to push you guys to the point of insanity with yet another wishy-washy complaining review about John Green. I'm not entirely sure why I decided to read another John Green novel. Ultimately I blame Netgalley and the offer of free books, but I was also curious. Curious about (1) how another author's additions fit with John Green and (2) what am I missing here?

In my review of Looking for Alaska I mentioned that I didn't think John Green wrote characters particularly well. To me it feels like he has a story he wants to tell (dealing with cancer, dealing with the death of a loved one) and he moulds the characters to tell that story. And like I said before, this is fine. Different authors have different strengths, but I think I tend to gravitate towards characters rather than stories. Or rather, I prefer my stories to unfold organically through the character. Writing Will Grayson, Will Grayson threw a wrench in this formula because it's kind of like playing a game of mad libs. Green would write one chapter and then Levithan would write the next and so on and so on. So while Green could begin with a general idea of the story he wanted to tell (kid who is terrified of life essentially has to learn to live) Levithan's involvement surely threw him a few curve balls. Ultimately I think this led to me enjoying the book far, far more. The characters felt more organic, like they were sweeping the events of the novel in particular directions rather than the other way around. Green's Will Grayson was probably the only character that stuck out as a typical Green character and even he wasn't quite as "blank face + quirky characteristics" as I'd found previous characters to be.

It took me awhile to get into this novel but I honestly think this was mostly a case of a poorly edited review copy. The chapter headings weren't clearly marked so on occasion I'd move into the next chapter without realising it and become catastrophically confused about the switch in character names and so forth. There are clearly downfalls to having your two main characters share the same name. I'm certain this isn't the case in the physical edition and the proper release of the ebook, but if you're thinking of getting this digitally I'd recommend sampling a chapter just to check. That being said, David Levithan's Will Grayson storyline also took me awhile to find footing for. He made the stylistic choice to remove capitals from his writing, because his Will sees himself as "a lowercase person". It took some time to adapt to this shift in style every alternating chapter, although it actually took me awhile to realise why it felt so fractured. He's also such a depressed and angry character that it took awhile to fit into his rhythm and begin to see things from his perspective. I'd guess that this jarring sensation is what Levithan was aiming for, replicating the characters discord in the reader, but nonetheless it made for a struggle at the start of the book.

I still detest the way John Green writes romance. I couldn't find a single instance of a spark between Green's Will and his crush Jane. Part of this could be explained through Grayson's decision to avoid caring for things because that "always leads to being hurt*" but ultimately it came down to the same weird idealisation  that all of Green's male characters feel for their female crushes. Even if the female character is fleshed out (which I'd argue very few of them are) all of that progress is instantly slashed away when the guy falls for her because... why? Because the author wanted them to be in love? Because the story was lacking a relationship? Because the best way to show that the guy has healed and become a complete person is to reward him with a girlfriend? Amazingly, Green's Will has a gay best friend who is far more realistic when it comes to relationships. He falls quickly and he falls hard, but he recovers and moves on to the next love just as quickly. If this novel wasn't by Green himself, I'd think it was making a statement on the kind of shallow relationships depicted in Green and Co's YA novels. Tiny (that's Will's gay best friend) might have shallow relationships but the book actually explores why he has such superficial relationships and the character himself looks inwards in a way that I've never seen present in a John Green novel before.

The book hits the usual comedic highs and emotional lows that you'd expect from a YA coming of age novel. There's music and musicals (god do I hate reading music lyrics within novels) and drinking and fake I.Ds. There's a lot to really like in this book and, at least from my perspective, the flaws are less intrusive as the ones I found in Looking for Alaska and TFioS. Maybe it was the duel narration, but I didn't find myself really latching on to anything into this novel until I hit the halfway mark. So points earned for fixing some of my issues with the Green template but points lost for not quite having the spark to catch me from the first few pages.

*I never really understood the basis for this, maybe I missed it but there didn't seem to be any specific cause for such an extreme point of view. 


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