“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” explores relationships and emotions in YA lit

There’s even more hype than usual surrounding Young Adult literature author and internet sensation John Green as the June 6, 2014 release date for the movie adaptation of his best-selling novel “The Fault in Our Stars” approaches. Although I loved “The Fault in Our Stars” and consider it one of his best novels, I would like to draw attention to one of his other outstanding works that deserves a larger audience.

In my opinion, “Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” a book that Green co-wrote with fellow Young Adult author David Levithan, is possibly even better than “The Fault in Our Stars.” It moved and delighted me. Green and Levithan tell a highly entertaining story with an interestingly convoluted plot and a good dosage of snarky humor. Along the way, they also address issues very relevant to teenagers—sexuality, friendship and belonging – without any of the condescension or dripping sentimentality that can sometimes pervade the writing of adults for a teenage audience.

“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” tells the story of two boys, both named Will Grayson, and their friends. One is gay and the other is straight. Green writes from the perspective of the straight Will Grayson and Levithan writes from the perspective of the gay Will Grayson.

Levithan is perhaps best known for the novel “Boy Meets Boy,” about the romance between two gay teenage boys. Although I have not read any of his work other than his half of “Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” he clearly has a superb ability to empathetically understand and portray the experiences of teenagers struggling with their identities.

His Will Grayson has a decidedly dark side—he is clearly a depressed person in a lot of pain. Although I find the portrayal admirably honest and realistic, I don’t know that I could bear reading an entire book from his perspective. Green’s Will Grayson provides a welcome counterpoint.

In this book, Green’s comedic and down-to-earth writing voice truly comes into its own. This might seem an odd claim to make about a book that he didn’t even write completely by himself. However, judging by the rest of Green’s career, collaboration is exactly the environment in which he thrives. One need only look at Vlogbrothers, the videoblogging collaboration with his brother Hank Green that made them famous.

Both Green’s and Levithan’s clever wit had me laughing throughout much of the book, but what I really loved and found unique about the book were the truthful representations of relationships, both platonic and romantic. They depict both the minor and major heartbreaks that result in human connections, recognizing that destructive miscommunication and small betrayals hurt badly. However, they also show how teenagers and people in general can mature to move past these conflicts and support the humanity of others.

The ending was truly heartwarming and lovely without feeling trite. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot and doubt that fully explaining it would convey the experience of actually reading the book, so if you want to know how the Will Graysons transpire to meet all that comes after, I urge you to go on the thoroughly enjoyable journey of reading “Will Grayson, Will Grayson.”