Format: Audiobook, read by MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl
Length: 7 hours, 52 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Source: Borrowed from the library
Awards: Audie Award Nominee, Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults
I must admit that I had never heard of this book before signing up to participate in Roof BeamReader’s “The Literary Others” LGBT Reading Event for the month of October. I’d heard of John Green, and I had previously read a David Levithan book that he co-authored with Rachel Cohn (Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares), but it was only after going on a search of my library’s offerings of books by authors whom Adam mentioned in the sign-up post for the event that I ended up finding Will Grayson, Will Grayson.
Because my library only had the book on audio, that’s the version I ended up reading/listening to, and I’m so glad that I did. The two narrators do a wonderful job of portraying two different but identically-monikered teenage boys, and they convey the boys’ personalities in a way that is both convincing and charming. They even sing! The narrator who reads Will Grayson #2 is almost too convincing in his portrayal of a depressive, sullen teenager, as there were times at the beginning of the book when I felt myself getting very sick of the character’s bad attitude, as any parent of a depressive, sullen teenager must no doubt feel from time to time!
Here’s the story: Will Grayson tries to live his life by a philosophy of “shut up and don’t care”, which he seems to think will prevent anything bad from happening to him. He breaks his own rules by writing an editorial for the school paper in defense of his long-time best friend Tiny Cooper, a gay football player and aspiring dramatist, and as a result he seems to lose his other friends, a loosely-connected group of people whom he hung out and ate lunch with at school. Through Tiny he is introduced to Jane, a brainy indie music fan, and as a result Will begins to explore his conflicting feelings about pretty much everything.
In another city across the state, a different Will Grayson may not be actively trying not to care about anything, but that seems to be his reality (compounded by the fact that he is clinically depressed). This Will is also a teenager, he’s gay, and unlike the rather flamboyant Tiny, he has yet to come out to his few friends and his single-parent mother. This Will is a seriously unhappy person, but he has a kind heart that draws others to him–in particular, an online friend named Isaac who seems to be the one person who makes Will happy.
Over the course of the book, the two different Will Graysons tell their stories in alternating chapters, and eventually their stories collide in a way that results in changes for them both. They are both influenced by the people that shape their journeys–friends, family, and especially Tiny Cooper.
Here’s what I thought: I really liked this book. It made me happy to get into the car every day, as I listened to it on my commute to and from work. I thought the contrasting characters of the two Wills were very well developed, although it was Will Grayson #2 who stole my heart, which is ironic because I started off really disliking him. There is such a vulnerability to him, though, that is only really made clear when he meets Tiny. I also thought it was nice that the transformations of the two Wills are along very similar lines, even as they undergo these changes in their own ways–it gives the story a resonance that it might not have had otherwise.
If I have any complaint with the book, it would be with the ending which is a bit over-the-top. It hits you on the head with the point that it’s trying to make when that same point could have been made in a more subtle way. Still, it left me thinking for some time after I had finished listening, and overall it was a very enjoyable reading experience. Recommended.
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