*Contains very minor spoilers! Ye have been warned!!*
Will Grayson, Will Grayson was my first exposure to both John Green and David Levithan, the ever-so-trendy YA authors. It’s like a crime that I call myself an avid YA lit consumer, and haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars or Boy Meets Boy. This was also my first time reading a book with LGBTQ prominent characters. Dumbledore doesn’t count, you guys.
At first, I was a bit averse to picking this book up on account of its being stuck in the GAY & LESBIAN genre. There are multiple sides to the genre debate, I know because my boyfriend and I argue about genre labels all the time. On the one hand, It makes it easier to find books with topics you are interested in, but on the other, it’s also possible that the label will turn you off from reading a book that you would actually enjoy because you didn’t like the last book you read in that genre. I just always assumed that a book filed under “Gay & Lesbian” as one of its defining characteristics wouldn’t interest me. I mean, even if I read a book with straight characters who are thinking of / talking about / taking action on sexual thoughts all the time, I’m not too interested. I usually breeze through those parts and judge the author. So I always thought, “Well, the only way this book would have enough content to be in this category is if the characters are all lusty all the time.”
Will Grayson, Will Grayson isn’t like that. It does have a couple gay characters: one of them is stereotypical (likes musicals, says words like “FABulous”, makes it clear who is hot and who is not) but the other is not. The other, Will Grayson, is an average lower-middle class teenager growing up in suburban America, struggles in a single-parent home, takes medications for depression and anxiety, is unaware of how arrogant and self-absorbed he is, and gets butterflies in his stomach about holding hands with his crush. He is a remarkably realistic, believable character, and more importantly to me, was not what I imagined when I read the label that he came with.
The book is set up so that the chapters alternate between two characters. In the first hunk of the book, the times remain consistent, so when one chapter ends at say, 3pm on Tuesday, the next chapter will start at 3pm on Tuesday. One uses proper formatting, the other uses all lowercase (because I was reading an e-ARC, I assumed the final edits weren’t done yet...true story). Besides this, you don’t get a lot of clues that you are reading about different people until about 25% of the way through the book.
Now, I assume you are a much more clever person than I, because it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that, guys, there are TWO WILL GRAYSONS in the book. They are completely separate characters who happen to have the same name. There is no magical explanation of alternate realities or changing space time or reincarnation. It does not get awkward super weird Freudian theory puzzling and they don’t fall in love with each other. Read in peace. Because I certainly didn’t.
Straight Will has basically everything in life going for him: chill parents with well-paying jobs, good looks, good connections, and a super cool standoffish attitude that doesn’t allow him to get sucked into school drama. Gay Will, as I mentioned, is a little more believable. Both Wills struggle with expressing their emotions and have trouble when it comes to commitment in romantic relationships. But ultimately, the story isn’t about romance. It’s about friendship.
Will Grayson and Will Grayson have a mutual friend named Tiny. Tiny has a big build, a big personality, a big presence, and is pretty mature for his age. He is always going out of his way to build confidence in other people, and he looks outside of himself to push and encourage those around him to reach further. Though Tiny plays a supporting role in this book, he actually is the one that ties the whole story together. In the end, the two Wills emerge from their self-absorbed bubbles and work together to show Tiny how much he is appreciated.
This book was an enjoyable read, it surprised me in really good ways, and it has a refreshing emphasis on healthy friendships (not psycho lust interests like so many other YA books that SHALL NOT BE NAMED). It definitely broadened my horizons and showed me some of my own biases. Read it, it’ll be good for you!
I got an e-ARC for review purposes, but that in no way affected my honest opinion.