Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Grade 9 and up
Read Aloud: Read Aloud
Summary: This novel is about two teenage boys who coincidentally have the same name; Will Grayson. For the first half of the novel, the boys live completely separate lives; one in Evanston, IL and the other in Naperville, IL. Each boy takes alternating chapters (odd chapters narrated by the Will from Evanston and even chapters narrated by the Will from Naperville, henceforth referred to as uppercase Will and lowercase Will, respectively) and speaks about their lives. Uppercase Will is straight and lowercase Will is gay, but doesn’t come out to his friends and family until the second half of the novel. Halfway through the novel, the two meet by chance at a porn shop in downtown Chicago. Lowercase Will then begins dating Tiny while uppercase Will struggles with his feelings for Jane, the cute girl who is kind of a music snob. At the conclusion of the novel, Tiny puts on a play for his entire high school, detailing his past and his struggles as a gay child/teenager. The two Will Graysons work together to make sure Tiny knows he is loved and appreciated.
Themes: The primary theme of the novel is identity, and the discovery and search thereof. The two main characters, upper and lowercase Will Grayson, are each struggling to find their identities in their own ways. Uppercase Will is struggling with his identity via his friendships, whether it’s with the Group of Friends who disowned him or Tiny and Jane who accept him and care about him while Will doesn’t know why or how he should be friends with them. Lowercase Will is struggling with his identity via his sexuality, i.e. his secretiveness about his relationship with Isaac, which leads to his openness about his relationship with Tiny, and by proxy, his identity as a gay male.
Another prevalent theme throughout the novel is the idea of truth and honesty. Lowercase Will experiences what he thinks is truth and honesty with Isaac, only to discover that the relationship is actually a lie because Maura is pretending to be a boy named Isaac. Maura’s manipulation and deceit are what push lowercase Will over the edge regarding the truth about his sexuality and his relationships. Uppercase Will discovers various truths throughout the novel like the true meaning of his friendship with Tiny and his true feelings for Jane. Will and Jane even have their “ten minutes of truth” (referenced in my read aloud) in which they are completely honest with one another, which helps them to be honest with themselves.
Connections: I think this novel is completely relatable and accessible and could easily be used in a high school classroom. Even though my personal career objectives are geared more toward the College/University level, I would highly recommend this book to a college student, particularly if they are dealing with issues of identity, relationships and sexuality. I think this book can be appreciated by people of all ages because of the accessible characters and themes that can be easily understood by anyone within the approximate age range.
Reactions: I loved the book. I read the entire novel in one day because I couldn’t put it down. The characters are well-developed and entertaining and endearing. The themes are relatable and important. The economy of language is accessible but witty and immerses you in story. I especially enjoyed the fact that the story lines involving lowercase Will take place in Naperville (my hometown) and that there are several scenes that take place in Chicago. The book reminded me of people I knew in high school as well as issues I dealt with in high school. It was a quick, but wholly enjoyable read.
Reception: Jonathan Stephens, a reviewer for teenreads.com says
“Nothing (aside from aliens abducting my eyes for intergalactic experiments) was going to keep me from reading WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON. John Green (author of the Printz Award winner LOOKING FOR ALASKA and PAPER TOWNS) and David Levithan (co-author of NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST) have delivered the fourth cornerstone of young adult literature. While some teen readers might be turned off by rumors that the book has too much “gay stuff” in it, the smart ones will ignore the rumors and take my word for it. Hilarious, touching, thought-provoking and worth it, this is one story you won’t forget.
Andbutnor will you want to.”
Ana, a reviewer for thebooksmugglers.com (smuggling since 2007) says
“Ultimately though, and you will have to excuse the cheesiness, this is a book about love in all its forms: about falling in love and falling out of love; about loving your family – and the families are mostly normal families with supportive parents – and your friends; about realising that love does not equal sex and it is ok to love platonically; it is about acceptance: love for oneself, even if you are depressed, gay, fat. As a coming of age story for both Will Graysons, it is definitely a strong, perfectly enjoyable read. It carries a beautiful message delivered with a lot of quirky humour and it works for the better part.”