Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“everyone in our school has afterschool activities.//mine is going home.” p. 27 (David Levithan)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.
Speak, a Penguin Random House company, New York, 2010.
Realistic YA fiction, 310 pages + extras.
2011 Stonewall Book Award honor, and New York Times bestseller.
Lexile: 930L
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 11.0 points)
NOTE: This book is marked as a Target pick, but I bought it ages ago in a John Green set.  It wasn’t an intentional diverse buy.

Will Grayson is struggling with love, life, and friendship, specifically his best friend Tiny Cooper.  will grayson is struggling with the will to live, his undying love for his boyfriend isaac, and his sort-of-friendship with maura, who wants to date him.

They don’t go to the same school, or live in the same place, or have very much in common at all, until suddenly their worlds collide.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

It’s always hard to buck a trend.  I didn’t particularly like this book.  First I tried to read it when a friend recommended it, but didn’t get very far.  Then I stubbornly purchased a copy and made myself read it while working through all of John Green’s novels.  Finally, I reread it for this review.  I still don’t like it that much, although there are high points.

We’ve discussed before how I feel about capitalization.  For me it’s not really optional in a novel-length work, but David Levithan’s chapters are all in lowercase.  Elsewhere there are discussions of how this reflects will’s depression and view of his existence as mainly online.  It’s a nice way to tell apart two characters who have the same name, but it really annoys me.

It’s a John Green book, so you pretty much know there’s going to be stuff like underage drinking, fake ids, lots of swearing, and probably some sex (but that won’t be on-screen or graphically described the way a hangover will be).  But just in case this is your first John Green book, consider yourself forewarned that a porn store detour plays an important role in the book.

I’m not familiar with David Levithan, so I can’t really compare this to any of his other works.  However, this didn’t turn me away from trying some of his other books (as long as they have some capitalization).  Levithan did a good job of accurately portraying a character living with chronic depression.  I recall a review pointing out that there aren’t many books about a person who is living the day-to-day of depression, and I would have to agree.  I can’t think of any other book I’ve read about a person managing chronic depression.  Lots of books deal with the downward spiral, others chronicle an unfortunately or untimely demise, and others deal with the hope and joy of those emerging from situational depression.  This book deals very realistically with the daily grind that is all too often unseen.

The main star of this book is Tiny Cooper.  I’m glad Tiny had some issues at the beginning and end of the book, because otherwise I would have thought he was just wish fulfillment on the part of the authors.  Will and will are secondary characters in their own book!  But it’s okay because Tiny is so brassy yet innocent, self-absorbed yet caring, that you somehow care about him anyway.  Throughout the book, I felt like both Wills were moons orbiting planet Tiny Cooper; Will was the permanent moon, a fixture in his life while will was a substantial asteroid or planetoid sucked into his orbit and changing both of their courses.  The unfortunate effect of this for me was that I didn’t care as much about Will and will and wasn’t very invested in their outcomes.

Overall, while I didn’t enjoy this book much, you might.  I recommend it only for adults (although it is listed as a teen/YA book) because of the content and language.  I don’t like to push media on teens that encourages drinking, swearing etc.  However, lots of teens will read it anyway, so at least it has a realistic portrayal of depression and an overall message of love and acceptance of yourself and others.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

9 thoughts on “Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson”

  1. I know what you mean, I read this a few years back and thought ‘meh’. There were good points, but ultimately I wasn’t super impressed. What do you think about the rest of John Green’s work? I’ve never been a big fan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John Green is very good as his specific genre, romantic YA, just like Dan Brown is good at his subgenre. What I don’t like is that he normalizes a lot of bad choices like heavy drinking, sneaking out with a fake ID, etc. and his characters rarely have any negative consequences for very irresponsible actions. In the case of this book especially, a string of irresponsible choices have extremely positive consequences. A lot of my 6th and even 5th grade students read these (not from me) and are exposed to language and life choices without seeing the possible negative outcomes. On the other hand, I do like that he increases awareness around disability and also tends to write strong women. I mostly read all of his books because of my students, but it was pretty light and not challenging reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I relate to the headline so much. :s My after school activities in middle school & freshman year of HS was going home to read or play video games. haha. I eventually joined clubs and such because I needed to look good on college applications. But I enjoyed them, of course!

    I don’t think I’ve heard of this book, but I have heard of both the authors, who are well-known in YA. I just looked the book up on Goodreads and it’s very popular! Not sure how I missed it. Teens will certainly be reading this book, as they are the target audience, so I’m glad the book depicts depression well and has positive messages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That quote stuck out to me because I was the same! This book was very popular in my area, but what really irritated me was that a lot of parents were letting their 10 and 11 year old kids read the book, which promotes lots of poor life choices (drinking until you pass out, fake ids, sneaking out, meeting internet strangers for sex) as having very positive outcomes. So that plus the lack of capitalization caused this book to upset me. If you want I will send you my copy, I doubt I will read it again.


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