Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is a young adult novel released in April 2010. The novel surrounds two main characters, both with the same name, Will Grayson. The novel is different from many other novels we see today because it has two alternating points of view, both written by different authors.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson was the first ever LGBT novel to make The New York Times children’s best seller list.
Will Grayson , written by John Green, narrates the odd numbered chapters. All of his chapters are written in proper grammar and punctuation. However, will grayson, written by David Levithan, narrates the even numbered chapters. His words are all lowercase with no proper punctuation.
Will Grayson , who goes to a high school in Chicago, Illinois, tries to live his life without being noticed. His best friend is named Tiny Cooper, a very large homosexual boy. Will Grayson is the only straight member of the Gay-Straight Alliance at his school. He lusts after a girl named Jane Turner who goes to his school.
will grayson, a homosexual high school boy from Naperville, Illinois, crushes on a boy named Isaac who he only knows from the internet. They communicate secretly through instant messaging online.
When will grayson tries to set up a meeting with his online love, Isaac, the two boys accidentally meet at a porn shop and their lives intertwine. Isaac turns out to be completely made up by one of will garyson’s female friends from school, Maura. Maura has always had a thing for will grayson, but he obviously never liked her in the same way. Acting as Isaac allowed her to get closer to him.
This was John Green and David Levithan’s first time writing a book with homosexual protagonists. A lot of readers questioned why the two authors decided to take this route.
On johngreenbooks.com, Green answers questions about the novel. Some of the more relevant and important ones to this course include:
“Q. What was it like for you to write about gay characters and gay issues?
A. I didn’t think much about it, to be honest.”
This response really caught my attention, and it began to make me question whether John Green and David Levithan really knew what they were talking about at all when they wrote this book. Neither of them are homosexuals themselves, and probably do not have much experience with homosexual teenagers. Saying “I didn’t think much about it,” leaves me pretty disappointed in John Green as an author. He is one of my favorites, and I thought he would have gone beyond that.
It’s offensive and sad that he didn’t think much about it because there are so many teens out there today that do have very real issues that they deal with, and Green and Levithan didn’t even bother to do any kind of research.
“Q. Will Grayson seemed to have asexual qualities. Why wasn’t he?
A. He’s physically attracted to Jane from the very beginning of the book—or at least he drawn to describing her physicality more observantly than any of the other characters.
I certainly wouldn’t think it’s “too much” to have an asexual protagonist in one of my novels. I just wanted sexual love to be one of the kinds of love—but only one—that was celebrated in the book.
Thematically, I suppose this was important to me because I think both David and I wanted to normalize gay sexual encounters by equalizing them with straight sexual encounters.
But mostly I just saw Will’s reluctance to seek romantic entanglements as reflective not as asexuality but by his wrongheaded belief that pain is something avoidable/to be avoided.”
That, thankfully, is one thing they did accomplish in this novel. Although Will Grayson is completely straight, and to some, kind of asexual, he loves Tiny and doesn’t care that he is gay.
Merle Miller, author of “What It Means To Be a Homosexual,” states, “Nobody says, or at least I have never heard anyone say, ‘Some of my best friends are homosexual.’ People do say- I say- ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ without hesitation- and these words, no matter who is uttering them, are put- down words, in intent every bit as vicious as ‘kike’ or ‘nigger”” (1).
Will Grayson hangs around with Tiny and regards him as one of his best friends. He helps him through all of his troubles as he would any straight person. Words like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ are not used throughout this novel. Tiny is also very proud to be gay, and he doesn’t hide it from anyone, as some homosexuals may.
Green even claims that having the two boys meet at a porn shop is an attempt to normalize heterosexual and homosexual engagement:
“Q. Why did the Will Graysons meet in a porn shop?
A. I guess I kind of wanted to force David’s hand here, because I really wanted to write a story that celebrated all different kinds of love, that talked about love between friends and between kids and parents, and that wasn’t just another love story in which the only kind of love was romantic.
And it seemed to me that part of our weird obsession with romantic love is a weird attraction/repulsion to our sexuality, which is inevitably going to be at play any time you write about young homosexual men and women, because there is still so much prejudice against them. (I knew I wanted to write about a friendship between a straight male and a gay male.)
So I thought it would be interesting and resonant to have these two guys have this aggressively unsexual and unromantic encounter in a place (a porn store) we associate so closely with sexuality.”
When I personally think of a porn shop, I do very closely associate it with sexuality and even kinkiness. Having these two boys, both who do not have a lot of experience with sex in general, meet here, is kind of comedic.
Although the title is based off of the Will Graysons, Tiny Cooper becomes a very large part of the story, literally. Throughout the book, he is writing an autobiographical musical that surrounds his many past boyfriends. After both Graysons meet, will grayson gets in a relationship with Tiny. However, he ends it too soon due to his depression and lack of trust in others.
will grayson and Tiny Cooper reflect different types of stereotypes that society holds about homosexual men.
will grayson is the goth, depressed, and angry gay teen who wants nothing to do with anyone. In the first line of his first chapter, he quotes, “i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me” (Green and Levithan 22). (Yes, it’s all lowercase. It makes me cringe, trust me.) Great first impression, right?
He’s rude to his mother, and he’s rude to pretty much everyone else around him, even people who he calls friends. The only person he truly adores is his online love, Isaac, who turns out to be completely fake.
He represents the whole ‘teen angst’ thing pretty well, rocking the whole goth look and acting like no one could possibly ever understand him. He hides the fact he is gay to everyone.
His chapters are written completely in lower case and with no proper punctuation besides periods between sentences. While it drove me crazy reading it, I don’t think it was done solely to help readers distinguish between the two boys.
Constantly throughout the novel, will talks about how he is not good enough and has nothing special about him. Writing in all lower case with no punctuation may very well be a reflection of these feelings. will feels like he is a lower case person who is not worthy of upper case letters, which usually start a sentence and indicate important words like nouns. Readers pay attention to upper case letters when reading. will feels that he isn’t worthy of anyone’s attention, hence why everything he says is written in lowercase.
Tiny, though also homosexual, is the complete opposite.
Tiny is loud and proud about who he is. He is flamboyant and very into musical theater, which is stereotypical of many gay men.
Green even addresses this on his website:
“Q. Tiny seemed to be almost a caricature of a stereotypical gay person. Did you do this on purpose?
A. I wanted Tiny to be entirely agnostic toward the stereotypes. I liked the idea that he really, deep down didn’t care if it happened to be “gay” to like musical theater. He just likes musical theater.
After all, he also doesn’t care that it’s “straight” to play football, and he’s the best player on his school’s football team. He just likes football…”
Though Green claims Tiny is “agnostic” towards the stereotypes, he still completely portrays and perpetuates them.
However, he does play football, which is not very typical of a gay man.
Lastly, when I originally read this novel, I was very hesitant to do so. I read all of John Green’s novels before this one, and I wasn’t too sure if I liked the idea of an unknown author taking up half of the book.
However, afterwards, I was so glad that I decided to give this book a chance. It’s now one of my favorites. In fiction today, especially YA, we rarely see books written with more than one author. Readers, including myself, worry that the novel won’t flow, and the characters won’t be able to fully develop or create a connection with the reader.
However, none of this was a problem in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Both authors have extremely powerful and distinct voices, but they mixed well together. I was able to easily tell which boy I was reading about, and I also cared about them both equally even though they each had to share narration time.
Overall, this novel is unique for its time. It aims to normalize interaction between heterosexual and homosexual people, but at the same time, it perpetuates stereotypes of homosexual men.