Virtual YA Book Club Discussion: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Welcome YA Book Club to our second book discussion! I must admit that I didn’t like this book in the beginning and it took me about 20 pages before I really got hooked. I found lowercase Will Grayson a very negative and grating character. I think if Tiny Cooper didn’t exist, I might have stopped reading, which is funny because I think both Will Graysons needed Tiny Cooper too to exist.

It was refreshing to read about a friendship between two high school friends, one straight and the other gay. I also loved (SPOILER ALERT!) that we learned more about Will Grayson and Tiny’s friendship in the musical and how they supported each other.

Speaking of the musical, the ending of Tiny Dancer made me cry. I finished reading the book on a plane ride—my eyes welled up more and more with each new Will Grayson (and Wilma Grayson) that stood up in the audience. At one point, I looked down at my hands and realized that they were covered in the gold glitter eyeshadow that I was wearing. While I’m not a romantic comedy fan, I’m a sucker for grand gestures. I love that magical moment when one character does something absurdly crazy for another character.

In a sidenote: I just heard David Levithan read from his new book, Every Day, and he discussed his writing style. He mentioned that he secretly wants to be a songwriter and that if he could ever write a book as perfect as New Order’s song “Bizarre Love Triangle,” he would be happy. I thought it was an interesting anecdote after reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson. You can definitely see the musical influence!

Instead of direct questions this discussion, I’d love to know what you thought of both Will Graysons before they met, after they met, and how each WG evolves. What did you love? What did you hate? What confused you? What do you think of lowercase Will Grayson’s declaration, “this is why we call people exes, I guess — because the paths that cross in the middle end up separating at the end.”  

P.S. Our November book is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Please read it by Nov. 15!

10 Comments on “Virtual YA Book Club Discussion: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

  1. So, I didn’t have time to read this again this month (VeganMoFo is taking up all of my time!!) but I did read WG, WG last year. I remember reading lots of positive reviews but like you, Jen, I found it hard to get into and I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped I would.

    I definitely preferred one Will to the other, I’m going to assume it was the same one you mentioned. I too loved reading a book from two boys’ perspectives and the relationships they had with their friends and family.

    I didn’t even remember that quote but I like it, although being someone’s ex doesn’t always mean your relationship/friendship is over

    • Ooh, do you have a vegan food blog too? I haven’t been following Vegan MoFo as much as I should.

      I did end up loving the book, but at first I was ready to give up on it. I also must admit that I’d rather read about girls because I find them more relatable but ultimately, I loved it.

      And you’re right, being an ex doesn’t always mean the end, but for me, it always has. I’ve never been able to be friends with an ex-friend or an ex-boyfriend so I could relate to lowercase WG’s quotation.

  2. I have to agree in saying that I liked Green’s WG better, too. (WG2, we can call him.) WG1 kind of annoyed me at the start, but grew on me as he, himself, grew as a character. By the end I looked forward to his chapters, because, ultimately, I think he evolved more as a character. Once he became more okay with who he was, I became more okay with him (if that makes sense.) I liked WG1 because he felt like the guy I would have been best friends with in high school, too (and, obviously, crushed on). He felt real.

    But hands down, my favorite character was Tiny. Because who DOESN’T love him?! I want him as my own best friend right now. What I loved most was that they showed a very gay character who WASN’T coming out, who wasn’t struggling with who he was (though he already had gone through it). I liked that it showed he was OKAY after all of that, and now he was helping others be okay, too. I like how he showed that it’s fine to be gay, or fat, or ugly, or a dork. It’s okay to be who you are, because people will eventually like you for it, or regardless of it. And that you should take the plunge without fearing the landing.

    Mostly, I thought it was a great book for teens to read because it really shows different characters, and how they relate and mature and deal. And that’s important when figuring out how you yourself can relate, mature, and deal.

    • Hey Lauren! You’re right about Tiny. How could you not love him? I don’t know if your copy of WG, WG had the Q&A with the writers, but David Levithan talks about how he wanted to write characters that were in the middle of something. Like how WG was in the middle of battling depression instead of being diagnosed. Like how Tiny is in the middle of musical and he’s already come out.

      I will say that while I found lowercase WG annoying, I do realize that he’s battling severe depression. His character helped me to see how crushing depression is and how your view of the world is skewed. But seeing him evolve was nice.

      • Oohh, my copy DOESN’T have the Q&A! That’s really interesting, and a great point he makes. I think lowercase WG does, definitely, grow on you eventually. I found myself more invested with his transformation, and it DOES definitely show how bad depression can get. Great point.

  3. Did anyone else feel that the Tiny character wasn’t fully drawn? I almost felt like he was a cartoon with the descriptions of his enormous physical size and enormous personality. I could never get a handle on how he really looked, and for most of the book he seemed too good to be true. No one is that buoyant, cheerful, and optimistic. Especially in high school. But as he reacted to the pressures of the play and the disintegration of his relationships with both WGs, he seemed more real to me than he had previously. I wanted to really love and connect with him, but for most of the book he felt like a caricature rather than a real character.

  4. I was great friends, in high school, with a guy who Tiny reminded me of so much. He was big and loud and loveable and witty. I can’t imagine anyone not loving Tiny, at least in the end (he annoyed me at first!). I think I would have gotten more out of the big finale in the theater if I had felt a little more sorry for Tiny, but he already seemed to have such a charmed and happy life that it was lovely and all, but I don’t know, it just didn’t get me as good as it could have. I did love that scene, regardless. I get worked up over those scenarios where someone is just touched beyond belief and you know that moment was a bright, shiny jewel in Tiny’s memory from there on out.

    I liked the friendship between Will, Tiny, Jane, and their schoolmates. I loved that Will was such a cynical bastard and he was as stupid as all high school boys tend to be when it comes to relationships (friendships and romances alike). I loved that Jane didn’t fall all over Will when he finally showed interest. I loved that they didn’t subject us to any cheesy romance scenes. The ones that did occur were sweet and silly and seemed perfectly in harmony with the tone of the book. I really did like parts of it quite a lot even if I wasn’t left feeling all that changed or overwhelmingly touched by the story. It was a nice way to spend some hours and I enjoyed peeking into these characters’ lives and the clever way the authors wove the story around such interesting elements (the coincidence of the meeting of the Wwills). I do have to admit to feeling exhausted by will and his attitude (I know I’m so insensitive!). I was really drawn in by the idea of his cyber romance with Isaac (I met my husband online back in 99 – love@AOL holla) and when it turned out to be…well, what it was, OH, I was almost as crushed as he was! But that was the only time I really felt too much for him or about anything he did other than the grand finale, which, as nice as it was, seemed very grand for having hardly known Tiny or really having anything to “make up for”.

    My copy did have the Q&A and it definitely added to my enjoyment of the book. Knowing that each author wrote each Wwill separately and then they married them together with the rest of their story was like an extra, little delight after already really enjoying the book. It’s not long so if your copy didn’t have it maybe you can find it in a bookstore; you could easily read through it in a minute or two. It seems so much a part of the story how they wrote it that I can’t imagine they didn’t mention it somewhere else even without the Q&A so maybe they did? I’d like to know now that I’m curious! Just in case, here’s the Wiki bit on it:

    {{{In designing the plot for the book, the two authors decided to split it evenly in half. John Green wrote all the odd-numbered chapters while David Levithan wrote all the even-numbered chapters. This also held true for the main characters’ names, with Levithan choosing the given name and Green the surname. The only plot they decided on together was the fact that the two characters would meet at some point in the novel and that their meeting would have a tremendous effect on their lives. After this decision, they separately wrote the first three chapters for their half and then shared them with each other. After sharing, they then “knew immediately it was going to work”, as stated by Levithan.}}}

    You guys! This fan movie!

    It’s so sweet and well done. I loved it so much and I think you will, too.

    • That quote about exes was one of my favorite lines in the book! I think I may have even written it down somewhere.
      *Rustle rustle*
      I did! And some other notes, too. I typed them into my phone in the beginning but that petered out and now I see they’re not just quotes but general notes I wanted to mention when I wrote my discussion – oops! I’ll share my notes anyway. Remembering some made me smile all over again.

      -Sprinkled donut of a person
      -I’m so proud of you that it makes me proud of me
      -Planets like Tiny get new moons
      -Kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal (my note: the irony being that it’s TRUE! It’s called oatmeal and if you cut out the animal flesh and fluids and watch the fat *bam* cure heart disease. Just saying!)
      -I am never going to get better at being a good person. I am always going to be the blood and shit of things.
      -Don’t ever cheat on people. Because once you start, it’s very hard to stop. You find out how easy it is to do.
      -Awesome poisoning
      -Love is the most common miracle.
      -What would happen after nine months if Abercrombie fucked Finch

    • I forgot to mention that, as flawed as she was (maybe because of it), I really like Maura’s character and, although I hate to admit it, could identify with her in some ways. I always had boys as friends. Sometimes it got weird and awkward and relationships during the teen years (I had a STEADY boyfriend at 13 – what were my parents thinking???) are so weird because, geesh, we were just kids. We don’t know how it all works. And so I had just the tiniest bit of sympathy for Maura when she did her Very Bad Thing and I wanted to give her a hug at the memories of how it felt to be so tormented and stupid over a boy and your own emerging identity.

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