Cover of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, with red streaks of light against a dark background

About the Book

Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Will Grayson, Will Grayson #1)
Published: 2010
Series: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

BFF Charm: Yes, Yes and HELL YES
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit, Dude!
Bonus Factors: Neutral Milk Hotel, Keith Mars Award, Tiny Cooper, High School Musical
Relationship Status: BFF

The Deal:

Have you ever Googled your own name and then totally judged the other yous for being impostors and then you start to wonder if friends from junior high will automatically assume that one of THOSE people is you and then for the rest of their lives, they’ll think you ended up in a Florida with five kids and a fondness for animated gifs? Or am I the only one who still cares what people from 6th grade think of me?

Um ANYWAY! So, Will Grayson is an indie music nerd determined to avoid as many social and emotional commitments as possible. Will Grayson is also a secretly gay, extremely depressed dude who spends most of his time chatting with his internet boyfriend. While these two Wills may seem kinda different, they actually have a lot in common, such as:

  • An inability to effectively deal with girls
  • A total disregard for the value of high school
  • A very shallow grasp of what “love” means
  • And, last but certainly not least, a life-changing relationship with Tiny Cooper, the most awesome gay character I have ever seen in a YA novel.

Through a series of random events, our two Will Graysons finally meet, and since David Levithan and John Green wrote this story, it should come as no surprise to you that what follows is totally and absolutely fantastic.

BFF Charm: Yes, Yes and HELL YES

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

There’s a lot of reasons why this book is my favorite from both John Green and David Levithan, but I would say the main one is the way the authors utilize both the complimentary and contradictory elements of their styles to build complex, extremely authentic characters. So when I began the story, I found Green’s Grayson (GWG, he’s the straight one) to be the more likeable of the two, cos he’s got the indie nerd sensibilities and self-deprecating sense of humor found in all of Green’s protagonists. Levithan’s Will Grayson (LWG) annoyed the crap out of me, cos he seemed so wrapped up in his own emo “PAINT EVERYTHING BLACK BECAUSE THE WORLD IS DEAD TO ME” shizz, so much that I wanted to smack him upside the head and yell, “UP THE PROZAC AND BE NICE TO YOUR MOM!” But then, about halfway through the book, it came as a bit of a shock to realize that, wait a minute, I kind of love LWG and am, whoah, slightly annoyed with GWG! How did this happen? When a book can GOTCHA like that, you know it’s good.

By the end, I would award a bff charm to both Graysons, but I’d save a platinum, diamond-encrusted one for TINY COOPER, LIGHT OF MY LIFE. You guys. YOU GUYS. You have not lived until you’ve met Tiny Cooper. Here’s how Green’s Grayson describes him:

Tiny Cooper is not the world’s gayest person, and he is not the world’s largest person, but I believe he may be the world’s largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world’s gayest person who is really, really large.

I KNOW, RIGHT? Based on that intro alone, it should be obvious to you that he totally steals the show. In fact, if Tiny Cooper really existed, this book would be called, Tiny Cooper, Tiny Cooper! Because HE WOULD DEMAND IT.

Oh yeah and the tiny black bff heart charm goes to Maura, LWG’s goth friend, who writes the funniest emo poetry I have ever read. And I was the editor of my high school lit journal, so that’s saying A LOT.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

The romance in Will Grayson definitely falls under the realistic category, which is my favorite kind (in case I haven’t made that obvious in, like, all of my reviews). You’ve got the awkwardness, the uncertainty, the brief but intense eye contact followed by blushing… there’s even the passing of cute notes!!! While none of it really got my heart racing nor my palms sweaty, I was absolutely charmed by the evolution of the various crushes, particularly a certain plan hatched by GWG involving an indie band and a girl’s locker combination (definite swoon!).

Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit, Dude!

LORD this book made me laugh. On one hand, you’ve got John Green, who excels at believable dialogue peppered with clever, nerdy humor. On the other hand, you’ve got David Levithan, who writes in an achingly honest voice and makes the darkest (read: most hilarious) jokes ever. For example, this line from his Will Grayson:

God bless mood equalizers. And all moods shall be created equal. I am the fucking civil rights movement of moods.

And when you combine these two senses of humor, you get Tiny Cooper, a drama queen manchild with thighs like tree trunks and a penchant for saying the most flamingly gay thing possible. But, dear readers, it’s not all An Evening at the Improv. This book isn’t afraid to get serious, and Green and Levithan manage to get across the moral of their story without any sort of condescension (there is a bit of sentimentality, but it’s never saccharine). Lines like this, for instance, really got me:

This is why we call people exes, I guess–because the paths that cross in the middle end up separating at the end. It’s too easy to see an X as a cross-out. It’s not, because there’s no way to cross out something like that. The X is a diagram of two paths.

Now that’s the kind of Angela Chase shizz I can get behind.

Bonus Factor: Neutral Milk Hotel

Cover of the Neutral Milk Hotel album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

GWG is obsessed with Neutral Milk Hotel, because he is an indie music nerd and it is a truth universally acknowledged that all indie music nerds love Neutral Milk Hotel. This is a personal bonus factor for me, cos I played “In An Aeroplane Over the Sea,” during pretty much every shift I had at my college radio station. AND NO I WILL NOT PLAY WEEN, SO STOP CALLING AND REQUESTING IT, YOU MORON.

Bonus Factor: Keith Mars Award for Awesome Dadhood

Keith Mars hugging his daughter, Veronica Mars

I bestow this award upon GWG’s dad for a small yet amazingly heart-swelling moment that made me tear up, put the book down and text my dad to say how much I love him. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it.

Bonus Factor: Tiny Cooper

THAT’S RIGHT. Tiny Cooper is now HIS OWN BONUS FACTOR. And if you’re worried that I’m raising your expectations for him to impossibly high levels, I’M NOT.

Bonus Factor: High School Musical

Screen shot from High School Musical with students singing and dancing in the gym

Oh, I’m sorry, are you still not sure that Tiny Cooper is amazing? Well, maybe I should mention the fact that he writes and directs A MUSICAL. ABOUT HIS LIFE. And it’s called TINY DANCER. BOOM!

Relationship Status: BFF

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the kid who saves you from sitting alone at lunch on the first day of junior high, because he’s sitting alone too, and so the two of you accept each other’s flaws (and rejoice in your shared dorkdom). It’s the kind of friend who calls you up five minutes before a rock concert and forces you to go, even when it’s a school night. After you graduate, your parents will say, “Well, don’t expect to be this close after college, because people change,” but you know, deep down, that you will always be besties, because there is nothing in the world that can change the fact that this book will always make you laugh; it will always be there after you get dumped to remind you that he/she SO was sooo not worth your time; it will never fail to make you do things that you think you’ll regret, things that end up being your most cherished memories. This book should be celebrated, not just because it’s an honest and authentic portrayal of gay teenagers (and we need more of those in YA land, for sure) but mostly because it’s a wonderful, heartbreaking and yes, ridiculous story of three boys wrestling with the universal teenage question of “Do I love someone enough to pick their nose?” After meeting this book, it only took a few seconds for me to choose my answer: YES, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I WILL pick your nose.

FTC Full Disclosure: My review copy was a free ARC I received from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!).

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.