Will Grayson Will Grayson David Levithan John GreenCaustic, insecure Will Grayson (CIWG) has two rules: don’t care and shut up. His best friend, the very large and very gay Tiny Cooper, cares about many things and never shuts up. Currently, aside from falling in and out of love, Tiny is trying to hook Will up with a young lady and to produce, direct, write, and star in, a FABULOUS high school musical about his life. Meanwhile, morbidly depressed Will Grayson (MDWG) is constantly at war with his best friend, Goth girl Maura, barely exchanging two words with his stressed, worried mom, and finding his only solace in his internet boyfriend, Isaac. A coincidental meeting between the two Will Graysons acts as a catalyst, sparking change in friendships and relationships.

It’s hilarious. CIWG, written by John Green, is defensive, harsh, at times a terrible person, and an incredibly funny narrator. Even MDWG, written by David Levithan, sends many deeply funny statements out from the depths of his despair. (griping about internet slang: “or <3. you think that looks like a heart? if you do, that’s only because you’ve never seen a scrotum.”1). It’s also heartbreaking: both Will Graysons are in pain most of the time, and the writing expresses their depression, self-loathing, and need flawlessly. The girls are a bit underdeveloped and underrespected, existing almost as foils for the boys, but other things the book just nails. For instance:

gideon: yeah, and, i don’t know, when i realized that I was gay, it really sucked that nobody was like, ‘way to go’ so i just wanted to come over and say…
me: way to go?2

When I came out in high school, one of my classmates did say way to go. And that was really, really awesome of her. And this is a book that understands why that was important, and celebrates it, without losing the awkwardness inherent in just about every conversation ever held in a high school hallway or cafeteria.

It does get rather over the top, notably Tiny’s musical and, even more notably, the ending. It’s too neat, too perfect, too sentimental. And yet… I don’t cry over books. I certainly don’t cry over books while walking down the street in Brooklyn and I certainly don’t cry over unrealistically perfect sentimental bullshit endings. And yet… for this one, I did.

April 2010. I got an ARC from my mother, who works at a bookstore.

1p. 2
2p. 181
Will Grayson, Will Grayson ~ John Green ~ John Green’s Blog ~ David Levithan


looking for alaska john greeneMiles goes off to boarding school in Alabama looking for the Great Perhaps: adventure, meaning, real friends. He finds the usual assortment of oddballs, including Alaska: hot, confident, exceedingly smart, emotionally scarred, she’s an amazing friend one minute and a selfish bitch the next.

For the first half of the book, sections are labeled “___ days before,” (and in the second half, “___ days after,”) such that we know that Something Bad is going to happen in the general vicinity of Christmas or New Years. Before: booze, cigarettes, pranks, and the study of precalc and religion. After: booze, cigarettes, pranks, and the study of precalc and religion. Also after: trying to figure out what happened, trying to make sense of it, trying to explain it.

It’s not the type of book I usually read, but it came highly recommended , and it’s worth it. Much of the time, when I read books that really throw me into a teenage boy’s head, I feel that I just don’t get it. Excellent books that I enjoy and get a lot out of, but there’s a disconnect. This was just as much in a teenage boy’s head, but it still made sense. A lot of that’s the excellent writing and characterization. I think it’s also partly because so much of Miles’s experience that year involves Alaska; because a girl is so central to everything that’s going on, even the boys’ interactions with each other, it’s grounded in something I do (somewhat) understand.

Looking for Alaska ~ John Green