Genre: Realistic Young Adult Fiction
Audience: 9th-12th grade.
Read-Alouds: The passage on page four shows the characterization John Green wrote for Tiny Cooper. YouTube Clip
On the last paragraph of page fifty-three, the book discusses themes of truth, identity, and appearances. YouTube Clip
Summary: The novel follows two Will Graysons who accidently meet in Chicago. Both Graysons share a detachment to the people or situations surrounding them and struggle with interpersonal relationships. Will Grayson is a boy who lives in the shadows of his friend, Tiny Cooper, and has to deal with his feelings for Jane. will grayson is a depressed boy who struggles with feeling anything, his sexuality, and friendship. Both boys struggle with identity, whether it be sexual or social identity, to come to terms with who they are.
Themes: A prevalent theme in Will Grayson, Will Grayson is truth. Whether it be with the identity of Isaac or how Will Grayson feels about Jane, truth is depicted throughout the novel. In the novel, truth is not often stated. Jane went to the concert to make her ex-boyfriend jealous and not because she really liked Will, Will did not admit to Jane he dedicated the song for her, and will is lied to about the identity of Isaac for a year. Tiny is one of the characters who pushes the truth and questions the social norm.
Identity is another main idea in the novel. Sexual identity and social identity are the two types of identity that are discussed in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. will grayson is accepting that he is gay. Before Tiny he did say his sexuality out loud and avoided talking about it with Maura. Will Grayson takes on the persona of a straight male and goes against the typical male stereotype who is just trying to get in a girls pants. He questions if he likes Jane and what is important. In addition, Will Grayson struggled with finding his place with friends.
The theme of friendship is discussed with both Will Graysons. Right from the beginning of the novel Will talks about the Group of Friends he left. He never was sure if any of the friends in that group liked him, but they were around. The statement Will makes calls into question what defines a friend. will’s lack of friends at school calls to question if it is better to have no friends and be yourself, even if it is detached, or if one should put forth the effort when they can get hurt. This is will’s struggle.
Connections: This book could be utilized in a unit about discrimination or identity. For example, Romeo and Juliet could be paired with this novel due to themes of identity and the power behind a name. Will Grayson, Will Grayson can also be paired with Triffles. Triffles is a play that deals with female stereotypes in the early 1900’s. One could have students compare the stereotypes of both men and women through these two texts. Through this comparison, students can discuss how realistic each piece depicts men and women. A poem can also be utilized with this novel. Pick out one of the themes the novel addresses, such as friendship, truth, identity, discrimination, fear, depression, or family life, and find a poem with a similar theme.
Reactions: I enjoyed this book. The lower case chapters annoyed me when reading but the style and humor of the text made up for the frustration. Right from the first chapter the book was engaging. This book encompassed several vocabulary words for teens to develop their vocabulary. Some of my favorite words were sodomized, flummoxed, bereft, quell, and dexterity. Even though the chapters are a little confusing and may take the reader time to distinguish between the Will Grayson’s, the story plot is excellent. I squalled when Maura revealed she was Isaac!
Reception: In 2010, Youth Services Corner critiqued the novel and said “John Green and David Levithan are masters in examining the male psyche with equal shades humor and authenticity”. The site went on to talk about how each Grayson is relatable and likable throughout the book. They argue that Tiny Cooper is the heart of the book because he shapes both Graysons. The site does warn that this book may not be for everyone but is extremely likable.
Another review is from Marsh Myers. The site claims the book is memorizing and portrays teens in a realistic fashion. It is stated that “once they have their chance encounter in the porn shop, and a touching moment of spontaneous bonding on the street, the two characters never see each other again until the last pages of the book”. The article site goes on to talk about how the title is misleading because the book is about Tiny after the two Will’s meet and revolves around Tiny.