Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

While this title has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while now, it has been on my TBR list considerably longer. Both Levithan and Green are favorites of mine, so it might seem strange that I put off reading this book for so long, but the truth is that I couldn’t bear to sacrifice the anticipation. I knew that this book would be impossibly good and so I forced myself to save it for a day when I knew I would be able to most fully appreciate it. That day finally came yesterday, and as glad as I am to finally know why so many reviewers have fallen in love with this story, I’m equally glad to have saved it for the right time.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

One could be forgiven for assuming that this book would be about at least one person named Will Grayson, and it’s not precisely a wrong description. There are, in fact, two Will Graysons whose viewpoints alternate throughout the novel, seemingly coming from polar opposite ends of the spectrum of adolescent confusion and frustration though their problems inevitably intertwine. Green’s Will Grayson is demonstrative of his usual protagonist (and I suspect of himself as well), an intelligent, unique young man hovering just under the high school radar while unknowingly emanating a sense of charmingly eccentric likeability. Levithan’s Will Grayson, exudes none of the well-humored ease of Green’s character, instead burrowing inside a self-imposed isolation of depression. While the introduction to his character could be off-putting to some, I understood Levithan’s angle and judged his Will as no more than a teenager venting his ill-fitting maturity through angst rather than awkwardness.

Yet while both Will Graysons provide the lens through which readers are ultimately treated to a story about the shifting shape of love in all its forms, this story really isn’t about a Will Grayson at all. This is a story about Tiny, the larger-than-life glue that binds both Will Graysons together. Tiny is a polarizing character, one whose effervescent outlook and outlandish antics could cause readers to sympathize as easily as they could critique as a stereotype. While I appreciated his character, I don’t yearn to hear a story told in a sequel as many reviewers have requested. Quite honestly, I don’t think we would be afforded any greater insight into his character if viewed from the inside out than we get when seeing him from both Wills’ perspectives, because ultimately Tiny’s message isn’t about what you hold inside. It’s about what you allow others to see, and how you interpret that self-reflection. Tiny might be the force that brings both Wills together, but they are the strength that Tiny draws upon, no matter how much confidence Tiny purports to exude.

Ultimately, it’s this back and forth, this reciprocity of strength and weakness and confidence and honesty, that is at the heart of the story, regardless of whose voice you identify with the most. I hope Green and Levithan collaborate again in the future, for while I don’t feel that either perspective standing alone is evident of either author’s best work, together they complement each other beautifully.

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