„I can’t just change my art because you’re uncomfortable with it“

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson tells the stories of two teenage boys, both named Will Grayson. They do not live in the same city, they do not look alike and they do not know each other – until they do. A mere coincidence brings one Will Grayson to the other and although they do not really stay in touch, their lives start changing from that day onwards. However, it is not only their own lives that are affected by this encounter, but also their friends’. New relationships evolve, some slowly and some very fast, maybe even too fast. In the very end, the two Will Graysons have not changed completely, but their lives have gone to different directions than you would have expected at the beginning.

John Green and David Levithan are both bestselling authors and they created their Will Graysons separately and independently. All the chapters are written in the first person perspective, alternating between the two Wills. John Green’s Will Grayson is a typical John Green character: on the first glance he seems like an ordinary yet charming teenager, but as the story continues, the many layers of the characters (not only Will Grayson but also his friends) unfold before us. You get to know the protagonist and the principles he lives by, which are keeping his mouth shut and not caring too much. David Levithan’s Will Grayson is easy to tell apart from Green’s Will (not only) because he writes in lowercase. While you would like to think that will has overcome depression, he really just lives with it: it is always there and nagging him, but it can be controlled with pills. This is not a book about depression, though. The depression is just part of will and it influences his character. Levithan’s will just is, as the author himself stated, a lowercase person, who is used to communicating more or less anonymously online and this is where he feels most comfortable – until that night when both Wills meet.

Both their thoughts are brutally honest, be it the fact that Green’s Will is okay with whatever his parents decide for his future or Levithan’s will, who relentlessly points out everybody’s flaws with a myriad of creative swearwords. They are both not the most popular kids in school, but they do know that their opinions are just as valid as everyone else’s even though they do not have to shout them out to the world, like Tiny, Will’s eccentric best friend, who also becomes a driving force for character development as the story develops.

Although I think this book was a riveting read, I also get why some people might not like Will Grayson, Will Grayson or enjoy it as much as I did. Some of the characters really are puerile at times. Especially if your teenage days lie farther behind, you may not remember how puerile teenagers really are. Furthermore, there is quite some drama, jealousy and trying too hard (not the authors, the characters!) involved. But to be fair, this is also very typical for teenagers. The very ending, however, I cannot defend. It really is rather preposterous, but this definitely does NOT ruin the book.

Although it may seem like a typical book for teenagers at the first glance, this book really is for (almost) everyone. Not only is it a tremendous page-turner, it also draws you in on an emotional level. I am quite sure that everybody who remembers his or her teenage years can absolutely relate to this book. Whether you are gay or straight, outgoing or shy, tag-along or rebel, nerd or quarterback, you will definitely find your teen self somewhere in this book. However, if you happen to be a homophobe or to be very conservative, this book will probably not appeal to you. It is about teenagers, some of them being homosexual, who are trying to find out who they are. This book also reminds us that teenagers are not children anymore and that they do not only know about sex, they also experiment with it, which is absolutely normal and healthy. It also reminds us of how consuming one’s first love can be and how devastating it feels to lose it. And it reminds us that sometimes all you need to do is take a risk and just dive into whatever crazy or seemingly impossible thing it is you would like to do, forgetting all the “cannots” and “should-nots”. Seriously, what is the worst thing that could happen?

Having said as much, I believe that every parent of a teenager should read this book to remind themselves of how they felt at that age and to understand why their children do whatever it is they do. Even if you do not like the book, please read it for your children’s sake and try not to be offended. Be careful, though! For me, this book was totally unputdownable, so you might be out of order for the two days it takes to read it.

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