Monday, December 27, 2010

Will Grayson: The Counter-Post

“Love is hard and love is messy, and it can hurt worse than fire and sometimes it makes you want to tear down a building with your bare hands. But it also happens to be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And I’m obviously not a big fan of hyperbole.” - Hank Green

"Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling." - Edna Ferber

This is a counter post to this one on The Liberal Rocker, so please read that first. Yes, we all know that I am rather biased on this topic, but I am going to try to be as fair and objective as possible, so don't toss aside what I say just because of that. I've been meaning to write this post for awhile, and now seems like a good time to do it.

WARNING: Some spoilers of Looking for Alaska.

"Going into this book I had one problem with John Green, I felt that he had appointed himself the savior of YA Literature and saw it as his duty to push the envelope."

I'm not exactly sure what this means, nor do I know what this opinion is founded on, therefore I can't really refute it. However, I will say that there is a difference between believing you made YA better and believing you are the "savior" of it. 

"Coming out of this book I have another problem with him, all his characters are the same. Seriously, Will Grayson is almost exactly the same as the main character from Paper Towns. "

"All of his characters," no. Will and Quentin? Yes, they are similar.
I suppose that this is a matter of taste. I am predisposed to like anything John does, granted, so maybe if I weren't, I would also have a problem with it. I do find both Quentin and Will to be thoroughly entertaining narrators, though, so I don't mind reading two books from that perspective. 
As for whether or not it is a mark of a good novelist, well, not really. It could be argued that he's pointing out that all people are essentially the same on the inside and it's only our situations and backgrounds that make us different (which is something he's frequently talked about in videos), but I doubt that philosophy was behind it. I think it just turned out that way, and some people will find it annoying, and others will not.
Also, just because their voices are the same doesn't mean that they are the same. Outside of themselves, they are completely different, if that makes any sense. It's not just the personality that makes the person. Our surroundings determine our actions just as much as our "selves" do. I believe that the "soul" is just half of the person. Just like how when you get married, you're not marrying one person. You're marrying an entire family. Your new spouse is only half the package.

I believe you also once said that "all of his books read exactly the same."

My question is this: If they do read exactly the same, is that a bad thing?

Yes, Pudge, Colin, Quentin, and Will all share traits. They all sound somewhat the same within their minds. However, they are in totally different situations, battling totally different aspects of life. Pudge struggles to come to terms with the death of a friend. Colin faces the unfortunate fact that love cannot be treated as a science. Quentin realizes that he isn't the only complex person in the world, while Will learns to be brave and Lowercase Will deals with people.
Even if the books were all based around one narrator, there are different things to be learned from each one. There are different things to laugh at, different characters to love, and different issues to deal with.
Even with Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, which I think are the most similar in plot: 
Pudge thinks about life, death, and religion, while Quentin ponders how we view each other and ourselves.
If you mean they read exactly the same in regards to style, well, don't all authors have a style? That's what makes you like an author, as opposed to a book by that author. 
The summary of a John Green book: Somewhat nerdy teen with a specific quirk and lovable friends confronts an issue that is easily related to by teen readers through humor and character-recognized metaphor.
Either you like that plot line, or you don't. I do, and therefore I don't mind that the books are the same.

But back to Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

"There is no reason for the characters to meet (though it was handled well) as it doesn't really do much for the plot. Really, nothing happens in this book. And don't even get me started on the ending. "

The characters don't meet because they are the main characters. They are the main characters because they meet. 
The entire basis of the book was two people with the same name coming together. They started with that, and then built the plot around it.
David Levithan's best friend is David Leventhal, and either Levithan or Leventhal's college roommate was a different person named John Green, although I don't think that last bit was a factor in their deciding to work together on the book.
The Levithan/Leventhal coincidence prompted Levithan to want to write a book with a similar meeting, and that's how the book grew.

"Nothing happens in this book." I guess it depends on what you want to happen. It's a book about teenagers doing stuff. There aren't any vampires, or evil governments, or parents who are Greek gods. There's nothing to make them unique. They're just people. Some like to read such books, and some don't. 

The ending... all right. You have a point there. 

"David Levithan is one of my favorite writers and he has actually saved YA Literature (namely by editing the Hunger Games)."

I'm not the only biased one in the house tonight, folks.
(Yes, David Levithan is an excellent author and The Hunger Games was beyond fantastic, but I will not let you get away with that.)

"(John Green) also put in some cool band references as he has done in at least one of his previous works (Billy Bragg was referenced in Paper Towns)."

You can't give good author-cred to someone just because they mention musicians you like. Christopher Paolini watches Doctor Who. There's even a reference to it within Brisingr.
That doesn't mean Eragon doesn't copy a ton of stuff from Lord of the Rings (and if anyone wants to contest that, I literally have pages of notes I wrote in middle school -- when I was obsessed with the Inheritance Cycle and had nothing better to do -- of comparisons between it and Lord of the Rings. Who's a geek? Yeah, I'm a geek).

"This Year David Levithan has another collaboration coming out called Dash and Lilly's Book Of Dares which is far far far superior."

I have requested this book. We shall see. I'm actually afraid that I will end up agreeing with you.

"Three and a Half stars out of Five"

Oddly enough, I don't give it much better than that: 4 for book-quality, and 5 for how much I enjoyed it.


  1. I haven't read Will Grayson yet, but I'm sure I will do at some point. I started An Abundance of Katherines and loved the beginning, so I may read that one first. Do you have plans to get yourself an agent?

  2. I'm working on the agents. All I've received so far are rejection letters, but Kate Testerman (Maureen Johnson's agent) did a critique of my query letter on her blog, and the feedback was pretty positive.


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