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Literature / Will Grayson, Will Grayson

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“It's hard to believe in coincidence, but it's even harder to believe in anything else.”
Will #1

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a young adult novel written by John Green and David Levithan.

The chapters alternate narrators between two people named Will Grayson. The first Will Grayson (narration by John Green) is introverted, straight, and tries to avoid unhappiness and disappointment by abiding by two rules: "don't care too much, and shut up" — in contrast to his lifelong best friend Tiny Cooper, who is extroverted, and both "really really gay" and "really really large". The second Will Grayson (narration by David Levithan) is a loner, cynical and clinically depressed, who is in love with his AIM buddy Isaac and puts up with his sort-of friend Maura.

The two Will Graysons meet up about a third of the way through the novel, when the second Will Grayson goes to meet Isaac in person for the first time. What follows is a heartwarming Coming-of-Age Story about friendship, drama, coming out of the closet, and the gayest musical to ever grace the high school stage.


Said musical eventually received a full treatment in the form of Hold Me Closer, a companion book written by David Levithan and published in 2015.

Tropes involved in this work include:

  • Acrofatic: Tiny, as seen in the scene where he jumps off a swing set and sticks a perfect landing, to the astonishment of everyone. Justified, as he’s a star athlete.
  • All Gays Love Theater: Played straight with Tiny, whose self-written self-starring self-directed semi-autobiographical musical serves as the Concert Climax of the book, and probably Gary, who plays Will #1's Expy within the play. Averted with Will #2.
  • all lowercase letters: will #2's chapters are written like this. in the afterword, levithan explains he felt it just fit the character.
  • And a Diet Coke: At one point, Tiny orders - much to the waiter's bemusement - four hot dogs with buns, three hot dogs without buns, a bowl of chili, and a Diet Coke. Justified as he's trying to build more muscle, so he needs plenty of protein, but has no use for sugar.
  • Better as Friends: Tiny and Will #2.
    • also Maura and Will #2
  • Berserk Button: For Tiny, it's the song, Over The Rainbow.
    “You may choose your song, but know this: Tiny. Cooper. Hates. Over. The. Rainbow.”
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
    "anyway, i really need this job, which means i can't do things like yell or pin my stupid name tag upside down or wear jeans that have rips in them or sacrifice puppies in the toy aisle." [sic]
  • Big Beautiful Man: Tiny according to Will #2.
    • More than just Will #2 in the climax
  • Camp Gay: Tiny Cooper to a T; it's even revealed near the end that he discovered his homosexuality at musical theater camp.
  • Cast Full of Gay: By design: Will #2, Tiny, Gary, Gideon, and a ton of other minor characters.
  • Coming-Out Story: Mildly seen with Will Grayson #2.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Of Tiny's efforts to be a Manic Pixie Dream Guy to both the Wills. He ultimately has to realise that he can't fix Will #2's life for him, but Will # 1 also ends up admitting that he should show some more appreciation for Tiny's efforts to cheer him up and make him live a little. Having a Blithe Spirit in your life isn't a cure-all, but sometimes it really does help.
  • Defictionalization: Hold Me Closer, the musical written by Tiny Cooper in the book, was published in 2015 in its full glory.
  • Disappeared Dad: Will #2 has one of these.
  • Emo Teen: Will #2, slightly.
  • Expy: In-universe, the cast of Tiny's musical are paper-thin expies of people he knows in real life, such as Gil (later Phil) Wrayson.
  • Fat Best Friend: Tiny Cooper.
  • First-Person Smartass: Both of the narrators, but mostly Will #2.
  • Follow the Leader: The redesigned cover art of the edition seen in the picture image. Any resemblance to that of The Fault in Our Stars is probably intentional.
  • Foreshadowing: Will #1 and Tiny go to what they were told was a Neutral Milk Hotel concert, only to find that it was just a publicity stunt. Later, Will #2 goes to meet what he thinks will be Isaac, but it turns out to be Maura. The similarities in the two events are uncanny.
  • G.I.R.L.: Inverted with Isaac, who is actually Maura.
  • Good Parents: Will #1's parents and Will #2's mother.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Well, Tiny's actually gay, but he and Will #1 are this trope.
  • Hipster: Jane, when it comes to music.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Technically it's Huge Guy Tiny Guy, for many of Tiny Cooper's relationships.
  • In Love with Love: Tiny, according to Will #1.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Unfortunately for Maura, who set up the entire Isaac persona to get closer to Will #2.
  • Ironic Nickname: Tiny Cooper, the world's gayest person who is really, really large.
  • Insult to Rocks: Will #2's reason for why he wouldn't call Maura an asshole.
  • It's All About Me: Tiny Cooper. He's incredibly smart, but he's not really able to understand why people get so upset when he reduces every situation to what he is personally dealing with, and ignoring how the consequences impact other people. He IS a very rich teenager, so possibly he will grow out of it.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Tiny Cooper is a Manic Pixie Dream Guy for Will #2. He tries to be a non-romantic version for Will #1, though that part's considerably less well received.
  • No Bisexuals: Played oddly straight for a book with heavy LGBTQ+ themes:
    • "Possibly Gay Jane", a member of her school's Gay-Straight Alliance, is Ambiguously Gay for the first portion of the novel, until she's forced to admit that she doesn't understand the gay experience because she thinks she's "probably straight". The seemingly clear possibility that she might be bi is never brought up at all.
    • While Will #2 actually is gay, he expects Maura would take his interest in Isaac to mean that he could never be interested in her because she's a girl. Possibly the only Aversion in the novel, as Maura is clearly still interested in Will #2 and argues that since she is Isaac, she's really the person he liked. Still, bisexuality is never overtly considered even in this case, which if anything has more of an uncomfortable Cure Your Gays vibe (or, to be more generous to Maura, an attempt to force a case of If It's You, It's OK between her and Will #2).
  • One Steve Limit: Aversion of this trope is the entire premise. Will #1 points out that he's googled himself enough times to know just that there are plenty of Will Graysons in the world. Turns into a Brick Joke when Will #2 brings some of them to Tiny's musical.
  • Reality Ensues: Maura sets up the 'Isaac' persona, catfishing Will #2 because she wants to date him. Will #2 winds up developing feelings for Isaac, but when Maura reveals that she was Isaac, he is furious at her.
  • Running Gag: The term "bitchsquealer", and Will #1 not knowing what it means.
  • Serial Romeo: Tiny. In fact Will #1 tells him basically that he is in love with being in love.
  • Show Within a Show: Tiny Dancer (later rewritten and renamed Hold Me Closer), Tiny's semi-autobiographical musical (which he also wrote, choreographed, starred in and directed himself).
  • Snark Knight: Will #2 is either a Deconstruction or simply the trope taken Up to Eleven.
  • When She Smiles
    Will Grayson #1: [Jane's] whole face changes when she smiles—this eyebrow-lifting, perfect-teeth-showing, eye-crinkling smile I've either never seen or never noticed.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Tiny, in contrast to both Wills who are more pessimistic.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Will #1 and Jane; the metaphor for their relationship being Schrödinger's cat - they (the physicists) don't know if the cat (their relationship) is alive or dead. By the end, it's perfectly alive.


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