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Will Grayson, will grayson by John Green and David Levithan This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. At least, so goes the truism. In the rollicking, disgusting, sarcastic, and poignant first chapter of Will Grayson, will grayson, Will negates all three clauses of the maxim and kicks off what is arguably one of the deepest and most thoroughly teenaged publications of the decade.

One of the best and most immediately obvious assets of Will Grayson, will grayson is that it knows its audience. It is teenaged without fitting the conventions of any genre currently aimed at that demographic. In some ways, it is a school story, yet there are no cheerleaders; the football team is entirely incidental to the plot. Drinking, though present, is not glorified. Rather, the writers, John Green and David Levithan, grasp what it is to be an intelligent, sarcastic, cynical teenager in modern America. Colloquial profanity is ubiquitous not because the prose is meant to be shocking but precisely because it isn’t; rather, it’s meant to accurately capture teenaged vernacular. The characters’ use of technology—and the generation gap that this creates—is entirely realistic, despite already growing more dated by the day. Bands, and music preferences more generally, define the way some of the characters view both the world and each other; this, too, is a facet of modern teenaged life.

While readers might be shocked and repulsed by the fact that half of the chapters are written wholly in lowercase and use colons instead of quotation marks to denote dialogue, this, too, is a part of what makes the book so thoroughly teenaged. It is not sloppiness, nor does it indicate a lack of intelligence on the part of will, the narrator of this half of the book, distinguished from the aforementioned Will by the lowercase start to his name. Rather, will’s reliance on lowercase and colons conveys both his identity as an Internet-reliant character and his lack of care for himself and those around him. He does not believe that anyone, himself included, deserves a capitalized name. This is thematically important, and the unconventional mechanics remain obvious throughout the book; however, they eventually become less jarring and can enhance the reading experience thematically without simultaneously detracting from it aesthetically.

As alluded to briefly in the discussion of will’s philosophy on capitalization, Will Grayson, will grayson deals with the issue of depression. In fact, depression is just one of several real-world issues that the novel treats with dignity, rage, humor, sensitivity, and irreverence—in short, with humanity in all its complexity. In addition to being depressed, will is gay and belongs to a lower-middle class single-parent family. By contrast, Tiny, another major character who is also gay, comes from a rich two-parent family. This juxtaposition forces the scope of the book’s social commentary to expand to include socioeconomic issues as well as sexuality and mental illness. Green and Levithan do not maintain lockstep political correctness but rather incorporate humor and sarcasm in their treatment of these issues, as well as displaying the characters’ hurt and anger in response to mishandled situations and misplace levity, in effect rendering all of the characters fully human and believable.

Moreover, Will Grayson, will grayson is perhaps one of the most beautiful (and most profane) tributes to love ever written. Despite the presence of romance—both gay and straight—throughout the story, the issue of love is not primarily discussed in this context. Rather, Green and Levithan manage to distinguish deftly between love and affection, and most of the book’s “I love yous” are exchanged not between couples but between platonic friends, or between the teenaged main characters and their respective parents. Few young adult novels currently available devote so much attention to either of these less glamorous types of love, which makes the frank, realistic, exquisite treatment they receive in Will Grayson, will grayson all the more gratifying.

Finally, one of the book’s great triumphs is that—in classic John Green style—its major revelation takes not one step but two. Many novels conclude with some sort of revelation, a realization of one of life’s greater truths. What makes Green unique is that, in his stories, the revelation comes a bit before the end, leaving space for another character to receive the revelation, challenge it, critique it, finesse it, and ultimately repackage it into a different truth altogether, conflicting with the original. In this way, Green helps his readers explore the relativity inherent in all big truths and philosophies, encouraging his audience to interpret life for itself and come up with its own potentially contradictory ideas.

While not every plot point in Will Grayson, will grayson is entirely plausible, the suspension of disbelief is a small price to pay for the delight of reading this smart, sensitive, conscious, irreverent, gritty, serious, and hilarious masterpiece.



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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

MckayThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
today at 5:22 pm:
Flawless writing; your vocabulary is fantastic. I read this book a while ago. While I have to say, that John didn't "impress" me much as David Levithan (though I'm more a John Green fan), this book has stuck me ever since: its message and its story. Love between two teenagers seems implausible for me; but this book proves that even though Love is often impossible attaining, it's not entirely impossible. Your review is outstanding. 
 
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laurenevansokThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 12 at 3:28 pm:
Fantastic review, I know that this is a brilliant book because I am a big John Green fan. Therefore, the review definitely sums up the book and is true to the story. Wonderful job! Upload more! Check out my review on The Fault In Our Stars, feedback is appreciated :) once again, well done on a fabulous review! TeenInk.com/reviews/book_reviews/article/691465/The-Fault-In-Our-Stars-review/
 
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