This co-review was completed in 2010 and is being archived here for great justice!
Internet! You know what is better than a nutella cheesecake? Not much! EXCEPT CO-REVIEWING WITH ANA. Ana blogs at things mean a lot and if you don't know her you are missing out. TODAY we are sharing the conversation we've had over a book, by some dudes you may have heard of. We sat and took apart Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, and it was so freaking awesome, Ana blew my mind into 2012. TRUE STORY: it is not the Mayan calendar ending that kick starts the apocalypse, but my brain arriving in 2012 and EXPLODING FROM GLEE that Ana gave up her precious free time to tl;dr with me. I know, everyone wants to touch me now, but instead all I can offer you is our co-review. While this is in no way as awesome as you getting to co-review with her oh yes you're jealous aren't you, it is still pretty awesome. But I have to warn you, you may not want to enter this co-review without a breadcrumb trail and a spoiler net, because it is long and full of plot details and twists.
Also, I'm sorry about the apocalypse.Renay
: Will Grayson, Will Grayson! Two of them, two authors, two of us. This is clearly a recipe for success! I am totally STOKED to be discussing this book with you because it means I get to pick your brain. I promise I will not make this Renay Asks Ana Nosy Questions About A Book And Doesn't Share Any Opinions At All, because that would be unfair to make you do all the heavy lifting (it will be hard, but I will endure). I feel it is safe to start at the beginning, which for both of us I think was "JOHN GREEN HAS ANOTHER BOOK COMING OUT!!!111 CUE FANGIRLING." Time for the necessary evaluation of all that excitement, those nights, waiting for the book to arrive, the thrill when we held it in our hands, when we read the first page! The question is, did it deliver?Ana
: You had to start with a difficult question, didn't you? ;) I didn't quite know how I felt about the book for days after I finished it. I mean, I know it was awesome in many ways, but I didn't know how I felt about it as a new John Green book
. And I did wonder if all those months of fangirling and taking screenshots of John Green holding the book during his live show to e-mail you didn't contribute to my developing slightly unreasonable expectations (for which I solely blame myself, of course). Expectations are killers! I wish I knew how to get rid of them. To actually answer your question, this book didn't hit me like a punch in the gut like John Green's other books did, but I do think it's a book capable of having that same powerful effect on other people. And one of the reasons why I've been looking forward to discussing it with you is because I know that as we move from how much we enjoyed it to how it works, what it does, and how it does the things it does, I'll develop an appreciation of it that simply reading it and putting it back on the shelf wouldn't allow me to have. Can you tell I miss lit classes?Renay
: Of course! I ask the tough questions. You can come to the lit class IN MY HEART. :D
I did manage to keep my expectations in a low gear, because I knew David Levithan was the co-author. I am very hit-or-miss with Levithan's work. Sometimes it's wonderful (for instance, I loved his work in Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List
) and sometimes I go, "....what...? (Wide Awake
). Expectations fully tempered, despite efforts to the contrary. ;) I was actually prepared to go into this book loving John Green's half and being emotionally disconnected from Levithan's. Neither of these things happened. I liked the book, of course! I gobbled it up in one day and wanted more more more, but no, it wasn't a John Green Book for me (that phrase comes with sparkles, but no unicorns). There's not the same helpless love I felt for Looking for Alaska
or An Abundance of Katherines
, but I don't think that's a bad thing. Not every work an author puts out is going to be fireworks and cotton candy and a ride on the Scrambler. I liked their characters and the complicated nature of friendship and love being analyzed, but I did wonder at the end: who this story is truly about? Did you run into that issue, as well?Ana
: I did a bit, yes. I hesitate to call the book unfocused, and I have absolutely nothing against stories in which several different characters deal with their own separate issues, but by the end I kind of wanted it to have gone....further? I've seen reviews that said that the ending felt rushed, and while I don't think it left the characters in a bad place necessarily, I kind of felt that way about the whole
book. Things happened fast, and I had several moments of, "Wait, can we go over that again, only more slowly?" Then again, I read this book insanely fast — all because, as I said above, I was ridiculously excited to be reading it — so it could have been that too.Renay
: I actually discussed the end of the book with KJ
because I was curious if I was the only one going "WTF?". We had an interesting discussion about resolution, which might tie in to how the work felt unfocused. I don't think the ending was rushed, I think the ending was kidnapped! Obviously, what happened at the end was pretty neat, but KJ said that the book ended about one chapter too soon — and I agree with her. That abruptness, the lack of direction plagued me the entire story, too, even though I enjoyed it. I can't decide if the speed at which I read it contributed to this feeling, or if I read it so fast because I was waiting for something and kept rushing through to find what it might be. Ensemble casts are awesome, but when the book starts and seems to be about these two boys but ends on another character who has come to define the text, I get a little confused. Was the story about how each Will navigated their own life, or navigated their own life around Tiny? I think it matters! I have seen other reviews claim this is a "love it or hate it" ending, but I think that oversimplifies the issue. I didn't love it, of course, or I wouldn't be whining! But I didn't hate it, either. I was...bemused!Ana
: Yeah, I'm not sure if it's about it being a "love it or hate it" kind of ending. And that question does matter! Tiny Cooper stole the show, and not in an entirely positive way. I mean, on the one hand, I liked him. He was interesting to read about! The things he went through were relevant! And while I can see other writers making a mess of not
presenting him as a stereotype, I did think Green and Levithan did a fine job of making him fully human.
But — the book is
called Will Grayson, Will Grayson
. Obviously that doesn't mean there isn't room for other characters, especially characters that are so important for the two Wills. But the way the story played out, and especially the ending, did make them seem a bit like they were satellites revolving around a person who was just louder and more noteworthy than they were. I'm not sure if that was intended, but at any rate, it wasn't quite what I wanted from the story. I don't think Tiny's presence in the story is a bad
thing — he helps Green's Will break through his façade of not really caring, and Levithan's Will feel more comfortable with his sexuality than he ever did before. But the emphasis on the person
who brought these changes about rather than on the changes themselves kind of cheats both Wills out of their agency. I'm not saying the story presents Tiny as a Big Fairy Godfather of Feel Good, but because his presence is so inescapable, especially towards the end, it comes a bit close.Renay
: I agree that Tiny was extremely important to both protagonists, for the reasons you outlined but also for the way he brought them together with someone else who was what they needed at the time, even if they didn't quite know it. Will and Jane and Will and Gideon — Tiny helped both of them form these relationships both directly and indirectly, even if they were hesitant to reach out before. So even though at the end they feel resolved, in a way, I think you're right on about the agency. Tiny basically steals the show, which is always a problem when writing a character like this. So many reviews gush over Tiny but Will and Will are barely a blip — and I think many parts of their story, divorced from Tiny, like their connection, is lost because of this, which makes me a little sad.Ana
: It really is too bad. I find the processes they both go through so interesting, and I find stories in which people tentatively reach out even though they're terrified endlessly fascinating. (Um, not that I have unresolved issues in that area or anything.) The book would have satisfied me more if it had dealt with that in more detail, and if it hadn't been for Tiny's Magic Wand effect.
You mentioned earlier that you were worried you'd feel emotionally disconnected from Levinthan's Will Grayson, but in the end that didn't happen. Was your level of investment in both stories the same, then? How do you think that they compare?Renay
: If only they had given us ONE MORE CHAPTER. Just one, guys!
I expected to like John's Will Grayson more — for him to be more accessible to me. I have whined about my problems with Levithan's characters and plots before, so I don't have a super great track record. What happened surprised me, because after finishing the book, my feelings are all tangled up with Levithan's Will Grayson. I know I rushed through every other chapter to find out how he handled things, how he survived. ( spoilers )
That did it for me. It even surpassed the all-lowercase typing, which I could have lived without. Green's Will — his problems were definitely Straight Cisgender White Dude problems and I have to admit I am way less interested in that, which is not fault of John Green's at all. I knew how that story was going to end! If John Green's books have a weakness (besides how he uses female characters), it's that I expect certain things because the character type spits out the plot at my feet. Honestly, even if Levithan is hit-or-miss for me, there are surprises on the journey. This, in all likelihood, is just me? Maybe? Perhaps? ( Read more tl;dr and also lots of spoilers! )Other Opinions
: Book Gazing
, books i done read
, The Book Smugglers
, Good Books and Good Wine
, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
, The Written World