Pillbox

Will Grayson elevates genre

Teenage realistic fiction has, in recent years, become a wasteland of clichéd and hackneyed plotlines. Open up any novel that tries to tackle the life of the American teenager and brace yourself for an onslaught of superficial romance, an annoyingly large amount of angst, and a noticeable lack of academics. Any novel that manages to avoid these clichés and provide an innovative look into the teenage psyche is a breath of fresh air. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, written by The New York Times-bestselling authors John Green and David Levithan, possesses a glimpse of that innovative spark.

At the book’s core, it is a story about love and friendship — and the intersection of the two — told from the perspective of two teenage narrators, both of whom are named Will Grayson. While this could have resulted in just another run-of-the-mill teen book, the genuineness of the narrators, along with the quirky plot, results in a non-trivializing yet still massively entertaining look at teenage life in America.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is comprised of two different plots, one of which is written by Green and the other by Levithan. Levithan’s Will Grayson is a clinically depressed social pariah whose only source of joy is an online boyfriend named Issac. Green’s Will Grayson isn’t much better off; he is terminally apathetic, especially regarding relationships, while his best friend, Tiny Cooper, drags Will into joining the Gay Straight Alliance and assisting him with a production of Tiny Dancer, a musical documenting Tiny’s life.

For the first part of the novel there is no overlap between the two stories at all, and even after the two stories do overlap, it is only a brief intersection. Despite this, the story still feels like a unified whole. Characters that appear in both storylines are fleshed out from both perspectives and the overarching themes of both plots complement each other superbly.

What sets Will Grayson, Will Grayson apart from other teen realism books is the narrative style. Green and Levithan both construct narrators who act like believably real teenagers. They emote angst and self-pity, but they aren’t overt expressions; rather, they’re hidden in the conversations between the characters. Both narrators are capable of feeling a wide spectrum of emotions and respond realistically to different situations; there is no over-the-top drama. The ideas that both Will Graysons express in their narratives may be stereotypical teenage emotions, but they are conveyed maturely and convincingly.

While some teen realism books need to find some new angle from which to examine the mind of the American teenager in order to stand out, Will Grayson, Will Grayson takes the ordinary and expected and elevates it to a new level.