Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is an improbable book. Or, I suppose I should clarify, it is a book based around several bizarre (and often hilarious) improbabilities, which, in turn, cause the book’s very existence to seem strange and unprecedented. In truth, I don’t know if there are other novels out there that are just like—or weirder than—Will Grayson, Will Grayson, or if I am getting hung up on particulars, and ignoring the fact that it is, at heart, actually a pretty conventional tale of teenage friendship. What I do know, however, is that whenever I try to describe the plot—to my friends, in this review, or even just to myself—I have no idea where to begin.

Do I start with the fateful night when Will Grayson, the only high-schooler hapless enough to buy a fake ID stating he is 20 years old, meets his name twin, the uppercase-averse will grayson, in a Chicago porn store? Or do I dispense with the formality of pretending I care very much about either Will Grayson and get right to my favorite character, Tiny Cooper? And what about the central event in the story, the production of the over-the-top musical Tiny Dancer, based on the life of the aforementioned Tiny Cooper—as well as written, directed by, and starring him? How do I pull all of these threads together without making it sound like the “Twilight Zone”-inspired episode of “Glee” that no one was waiting for?

Luckily, where I always, inevitably fail, authors John Green and David Levithan have succeeded. They have managed to wrangle all of these strange and wonderful details into a cohesive story; even more impressively, they have done so together, in a collaboration that has each contributing alternating chapters. The two Will Graysons, as a result, are convincingly unique. Their stories are interesting separately, but these stories become infinitely better as they begin to intertwine with one another. The Will Graysons, by being so different, in fact complement each other well: one is gay, the other straight; one hates the world, while the other keeps his head down and stifles his emotions. They come from different backgrounds (and have vastly different views on capitalization) but each is in a similar rut, too angry or too unwilling—or maybe just too scared—to confront the world honestly.

Of course, a novel solely about these two perpetually-paralyzed Will Graysons would surely stagnate quickly, offering no chance for character development—or even action. Enter Tiny Cooper, who, as Will Grayson explains, may not be the gayest person in the world, or the largest, but who is almost certainly the largest gay person, or the gayest large person. Tiny is not only large, but larger-than-life, and his confidence in his own fabulousness is what enables him to achieve outrageous feats. Tiny inspires the first Will Grayson, his best friend, to get the girl (and a life), and the second will grayson, his boyfriend, to finally admit to himself and the world that he is gay. Tiny is, to put it lightly, a force of nature, someone who can miraculously convince his high school to let him put on the musical adaptation of his life…but who also often ends up eclipsing those around him. (No really, with his large build he literally may have caused an eclipse at some point.)

Unfortunately, with the pressures of the play, and Will’s budding romance with a cool girl named Jane, Tiny Cooper and Will Grayson begin to drift apart. They begin to forget why they were friends in the first place. Do they really care for each other, or was their friendship just convenient? A clever scheme and some last minute revisions to the script for Tiny Dancer result in an epic finale that clarifies just what their friendship is all about. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll break into song. Well, maybe.

…Even if Will Grayson, Will Grayson doesn’t inspire you to set your emotions to music, it will keep you laughing. It’s hilarious, absurd, and even kind of touching. I didn’t expect to like it (seriously, a high school musical?), but I was completely charmed. Like I said, it’s an improbable book.

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