Thursday, September 02, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Let me begin this review by hollering "I LOVE YOU, TINY COOPER!" And no, I'm not planning on making references or comparisons to I Love You, Beth Cooper, which I haven't read (or seen). I am completely referring to the fictional character of Tiny Cooper who is completely and totally made of WIN.

Now, I know that Tiny Cooper is not the main character in this book. But he is the glue that helps to hold together the narratives told by the two different Will Graysons whose story this is. And he is awesome. He is a huge, gay, football-playing musical writer/director/actor; best friend to one Will Grayson and love interest to the other. And I adore him.

I also adore his best friend Will Grayson, who had me at All Dogs Go To Heaven. Once I'd laughed aloud at his pain, I knew we'd get along just fine, and we did, even though I got a bit cranky with him along the way over a certain misunderstanding that I will not talk about because it is spoilery. *takes deep breath* This Will Grayson tries to get through life by not caring about things and shutting up. I love seeing how his assessment of that strategy shifts throughout the book. And I really, truly love his interaction with his dad. While I'm thinking of it: another big thank-you to John Green for writing a relatively happy family with two parents. We seriously don't get to see enough of those in YA literature, in my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, I eventually came to feel true affection for what I will call the Other Will Grayson, but OWG starts the book in a pretty dark place, and it's hard to immediately feel affection for something that dark and prickly. But over the course of several chapters, seeing just how fragile his wall really is, and getting glimpses of the small hurt thing inside, it was impossible to not start feeling concerned about him, and from concern came more understanding and next thing I knew, I liked him at least a little and was rooting for him a LOT.

I love that this book, which features an extremely fabulous high school musical, is not about musicals. Or about romance, really. It's about LOVE. The sorts of ties that bind us to our friends and family, really - something that is demonstrated by interactions between Will Grayson and his dad and the Other Will Grayson and his mom; something that is demonstrated by Other Will Grayson's interactions with Gideon (who I like ever so much); and something that is most definitely demonstrated by Will Grayson and Tiny, who have been best friends since they were eight, and now 9 years later, they have all this history and other interests and teen angst to work with and through, and this Will Grayson - he of the not caring and shutting up - finds out how very contrary his rules are to his actual inclinations. And his scene with Tiny in the dugout makes that so very clear that I tell you now that I wanted to cry over its beauty, but in that moment, tears wouldn't come. Nor did they come during the scene between the Other Will Grayson and his mom, although they threatened.

In fact, I did not shed a tear while reading this book. Instead, I turned to the acknowledgements, and started to read them. They are written in the form of a creed. As a minister's daughter who has shifted religious beliefs more than once, I know a creed when I see one. And when I hit the following line, I started to cry, because it is so powerful and right and true:

We acknowledge that being the person God made you cannot separate you from God's love.


I immediately thought of my many friends of all sexual persuasions who have struggled with this for various reasons - usually because somebody had told them that whatever they were wasn't good or wasn't enough (or wasn't good enough, come to that). This book may be excellent prose that tells at least two (and quite possibly three) compelling stories, but with its emphasis on relationships and love (not necessarily - and certainly not predominantly - of the romantic kind) and on forgiveness, it is also one of the most powerful messages of affirmation that I've read in quite some time, and it makes me believe the world is a better place. Which is why I cried, of course. They are something like a cross between happy tears and tears of relief, and they won't stop. If you read that to meant that I am crying now, as I type this, you are correct.

Thank you, John and David, for all you do to make the world a better place. And for Will Grayson, and Will Grayson, and Tiny Cooper. Never stop imagining the world as it might be.

p.s. - the cover of the actual book is so much more awesome than the online image gives credit for - it's a metallic sort of paper, which reflects/glows in light in really cool ways. Just so you know.

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