There are two types of book in the oddly defined genre of “Young Adult Literature” that I've become sick of. The first is, unfortunately, books about queer youth. This is because they almost all have nearly the same plot line- young queer person discovers their sexuality. It gets old. The second type is books by two authors, in which each author narrates from a different character's point of view, simply because I find it grating.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is a young adult novel about queer youth by two authors, each narrating from a different point of view. Somehow, miraculously, the book is fresh, funny, fascinating, and, without question, good.
Strange, I know.
Green (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns, also an internet celebrity of vlogbrothers fame, heterosexual), narrates as Will Grayson. Levithan (Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, Wide Awake, and many more, very gay) narrates as Will Grayson.
Will Grayson and Will Grayson are two teens from two different suburbs of Chicago and two very different worlds. John Green's Will is a straight boy whose best friend is Tiny Cooper, “not the world's gayest person... not the world's largest person... but I believe he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large.”
Levithan's Will Grayson is a darker character, a gay boy who struggles to make connections with real people. He has a boyfriend on the internet and one friend at school who he hates.
The two Wills' lives crash, becoming inextricably tangled, one night in front of a porn shop, and the many stories and subplots which follow delve into the meanings of love, friendship, nerd culture, musical theater, and (of course) growing up.
A simple plot summary does not adequately sum up the book's charm. The characters are fully developed, loveable, and quirky, their friendships are realistic and easy to identify with, and the plot is just strange enough to keep readers wholly interested without losing them to the oddity.
Beyond all of that, though, I think what makes this book a true gem in the sea of repetitive queer novels is the fact that this book is not about being gay. The gay characters are gay. The straight characters are straight. Their problems have little to do with that. Tiny Cooper is flamboyantly homosexual, but he is completely his own person, breaking out of the media's overdone stereotypes of what the gay kid is supposed to be like. Tiny loves football as much as he loves theater. He also weighs like 200 pounds, which is incredibly refreshing. The gay Will Grayson is equally unexpected. He is dark and gloomy and unique- not a stock character in any way.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is, I believe, a glimpse of the future, when some people are gay and some aren't and it isn't a big issue. Everyone I know who has read it read it in about a day and came out of it smiling. It is unique and fun and it talks about Schrodinger’s cat and comes together to create something new that, I think, is exactly that queer lit today needs.