One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens--both named Will Grayson--are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most fabulous high school musical.
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan's collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans.
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1 . Awesome
Posted April 22, 2012 by Sean , IndianaI would recommend this book to anyone who has a negative outlook on life. It just sort of changes how you see things. Sometimes all it takes is a little positive attitude to change how things in life are, this book taught me that. Just read it, it's amazing!
April 05, 2010
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Excerpt from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
Featured Excerpt in the Penguin iPhone App
When I was little, my dad used to tell me, "Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose." This seemed like a reasonably astute observation to me when I was eight, but it turns out to be incorrect on a few levels. To begin with, you cannot possibly pick your friends, or else I never would have ended up with Tiny Cooper.
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. Tiny has been my best friend since fifth grade, except for all last semester, when he was busy discovering the sheer scope of his own gayness, and I was busy having an actual honest-to-God Group of Friends for the first time in my life, who ended up Never Talking to Me Again due to two slight transgressions:
1. After some school-board member got all upset about gays in the locker room, I defended Tiny Cooper's right to be both gigantic (and, therefore, the best member of our shitty football team's offensive line) and gay in a letter to the school newspaper that I, stupidly, signed.
2. This guy in the Group of Friends named Clint was talking about the letter at lunch, and in the process of talking about it, he called me a bitchsquealer, and I didn't know what a bitchsquealer was, so I was like, "What do you mean?" And then he called me a bitchsquealer again, at which point I told Clint to fuck off and then took my tray and left.
Which I guess means that technically I left the Group of Friends, although it felt the other way around. Honestly, none of them ever seemed to like me, but they were around, which isn't nothing. And now they aren't around, leaving me utterly bereft of social peers.
Unless you count Tiny, that is. Which I suppose I must.
Andbutso a few weeks after we get back from Christmas break our junior year, I'm sitting in my Assigned Seat in precalc when Tiny waltzes in wearing his jersey tucked into his chinos, even though football season is long over. Every day, Tiny miraculously manages to wedge himself into the chair-desk beside mine in precalc, and every day, I am amazed he can do it.
So Tiny squeezes into his chair, I am duly amazed, and then he turns to me and he whispers really loudly because secretly he wants other people to hear, "I'm in love." I roll my eyes, because he falls in love every hour on the hour with some poor new boy. They all look the same: skinny and sweaty and tan, the last an abomination, because all February tans in Chicago are fake, and boys who fake tan--I don't care whether they're gay--are ridiculous.
"You're so cynical," Tiny says, waving his hand at me.
"I'm not cynical, Tiny," I answer. "I'm practical."
"You're a robot," he says. Tiny thinks that I am incapable of what humans call emotion because I have not cried since my seventh birthday, when I saw the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven. I suppose I should have known from the title that it wouldn't end merrily, but in my defense, I was seven. Anyway, I haven't cried since then. I don't really understand the point of crying. Also, I feel that crying is almost--like, aside from deaths of relatives or whatever--totally avoidable if you follow two very simple rules: 1. Don't care too much. 2. Shut up. Everything unfortunate that has ever happened to me has stemmed from failure to follow one of the rules.
"I know love is real because I feel it," Tiny says.
Apparently, class has started without our knowing, because Mr. Applebaum, who is ostensibly teaching us precalculus but is mostly teaching me that pain and suffering must be endured stoically, says, "You feel what, Tiny?"
"Love!" says Tiny. "I feel love." And everyone turns around and either laughs or groans at Tiny, and because I'm sitting next to him and he's my best and only friend, they're laughing and groaning at me, too, which is precisely why I would not choose Tiny Cooper as my friend. He draws too much attention. Also, he has a pathological inability to follow either of my two rules. And so he waltzes around, caring too much and ceaselessly talking, and then he's baffled when the world craps on him. And, of course, due to sheer proximity, this means the world craps on me, too.
After class, I'm staring into my locker, wondering how I managed to leave The Scarlet Letter at home, when Tiny comes up with his Gay-Straight Alliance friends Gary (who is gay) and Jane (who may or may not be--I've never asked), and Tiny says to me, "Apparently, everyone thinks I professed my love for you in precalc. Me in love with Will Grayson. Isn't that the silliest crap you ever heard?"
"Great," I say.
"People are just such idiots," Tiny says. "As if there's something wrong with being in love."
Gary groans then. If you could pick your friends, I'd consider Gary. Tiny got close with Gary and Jane and Gary's boyfriend, Nick, when he joined the GSA during my tenure as a member of the Group of Friends. I barely know Gary, since I've only been hanging around Tiny again for about two weeks, but he seems like the normalest person Tiny has ever befriended.
"There's a difference," Gary points out, "between being in love and announcing it in precalc." Tiny starts to talk and Gary cuts him off. "I mean, don't get me wrong. You have every right to love Zach."
"Billy," says Tiny.
"Wait, what happened to Zach?" I ask, because I could have sworn Tiny was in love with a Zach during precalc. But forty-seven minutes have passed since his proclamation, so maybe he's changed gears. Tiny has had about 3,900 boyfriends--half of them Internet-only.
Gary, who seems as flummoxed by the emergence of Billy as I am, leans against the lockers and bangs his head softly against the steel. "Tiny, you being a makeout whore is so not good for the cause."
I look way up at Tiny and say, "Can we quell the rumors of our love? It hurts my chances with the ladies."
"Calling them 'the ladies' doesn't help either," Jane tells me.
Tiny laughs. "But seriously," I tell him, "I always catch shit about it." Tiny looks at me seriously for once and nods a little.
"Although for the record," Gary says, "you could do worse than Will Grayson."
"And he has," I note.
Tiny spins in a balletic pirouette out into the middle of the hallway and, laughing, shouts, "Dear World, I am not hot for Will Grayson. But world, there's something else you should know about Will Grayson." And then he begins to sing, a Broadway baritone as big as his waist, "I can't live without him!"
People laugh and whoop and clap as Tiny continues the serenade while I walk off to English. It's a long walk, and it only gets longer when someone stops you and asks how it feels to be sodomized by Tiny Cooper, and how you find Tiny Cooper's "gay little pencil prick" behind his fat belly. I respond the way I always do: by looking down and walking straight and fast. I know they're kidding. I know part of knowing someone is being mean to them or whatever. Tiny always has some brilliant thing to say back, like, "For someone who theoretically doesn't want me, you sure spend a lot of time thinking and talking about my penis." Maybe that works for Tiny, but it never works for me. Shutting up works. Following the rules works. So I shut up, and I don't care, and I keep walking, and soon it's over.
The last time I said anything of note was the time I wrote the fricking letter to the editor about fricking Tiny Cooper and his fricking right to be a fricking star on our horrible football team. I don't regret writing the letter in the least, but I regret signing it. Signing it was a clear violation of the rule about shutting up, and look where it got me: alone on a Tuesday afternoon, staring at my black Chuck Taylors.
That night, not long after I order pizza for me and my parents, who are--as always--late at the hospital, Tiny Cooper calls me and, real quiet and fast, he blurts out, "Neutral Milk Hotel is supposedly playing a reunion show at the Hideout and it's totally not advertised and no one even knows about it and holy shit, Grayson, holy shit!"
"Holy shit!" I shout. One thing you can say for Tiny: whenever something awesome happens, Tiny is always the first to hear.
Now, I am not generally given over to excitement, but Neutral Milk Hotel sort of changed my life. They released this absolutely fantastic album called In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in 1998 and haven't been heard from since, purportedly because their lead singer lives in a cave in New Zealand. But anyway, he's a genius. "When?"
"Dunno. I just heard. I'm gonna call Jane, too. She likes them almost as much as you do. Okay, so now. Now. Let's go to the Hideout now."
"I'm literally on my way," I answer, opening the door to the garage.
I call my mom from the car. I tell her Neutral Milk Hotel is playing at the Hideout and she says, "Who? What? You're hiding out?" And then I hum a few bars of one of their songs and Mom says, "Oh, I know that song. It's on the mix you made me," and I say, "Right," and she says, "Well you have to be back by eleven," and I say, "Mom this is a historical event. History doesn't have a curfew," and she says, "Back by eleven," and I say, "Fine. Jesus," and then she has to go cut cancer out of someone.
Tiny Cooper lives in a mansion with the world's richest parents. I don't think either of his parents have jobs, but they are so disgustingly rich that Tiny Cooper doesn't even live in the mansion; he lives in the mansion's coach house, all by himself. He has three bedrooms in that motherfucker and a fridge that always has beer in it and his parents never bother him, and so we can sit there all day and play video game football and drink Miller Lite, except in point of fact Tiny hates video games and I hate drinking beer, so mostly all we ever do is play darts (he has a dartboard) and listen to music and talk and study. I've just started to say the T in Tiny when he comes running out of his room, one black leather loafer on and the other in his hand, shouting, "Go, Grayson, go go."
And everything goes perfectly on the way there. Traffic's not too bad on Sheridan, and I'm cornering the car like it's the Indy 500, and we're listening to my favorite NMH song, "Holland, 1945," and then onto Lake Shore Drive, the waves of Lake Michigan crashing against the boulders by the Drive, the windows cracked to get the car to defrost, the dirty, bracing, cold air rushing in, and I love the way Chicago smells--Chicago is brackish lake water and soot and sweat and grease and I love it, and I love this song, and Tiny's saying I love this song, and he's got the visor down so he can muss up his hair a little more expertly. That gets me to thinking that Neutral Milk Hotel is going to see me just as surely as I'm going to see them, so I give myself a once-over in the rearview. My face seems too square and my eyes too big, like I'm perpetually surprised, but there's nothing wrong with me that I can fix.
The Hideout is a dive bar made of wooden planks that's nestled between a factory and some Department of Transportation building. There's nothing swank about it, but there's a line out the door even though it's only seven. So I huddle in line for a while with Tiny until Gary and Possibly Gay Jane show up.
Jane's wearing a hand-scrawled Neutral Milk Hotel v-neck T-shirt under her open coat. Jane showed up in Tiny's life around the time I dropped out of it, so we don't really know each other. Still, I'd say she's currently about my fourth-best friend, and apparently she has good taste in music.
Waiting outside the Hideout in the face-scrunching cold, she says hi without looking at me, and I say hi back, and then she says, "This band is so completely brilliant," and I say, "I know."
This marks possibly the longest conversation I've ever had with Jane. I kick at the gravelly dirt a little and watch a miniature dust cloud encircle my foot and then I tell Jane how much I like "Holland, 1945," and she says, "I like their less accessible stuff. The polyphonic, noisy stuff." I just nod, in hopes that it appears I know what polyphonic means.
One thing about Tiny Cooper is that you can't whisper in his ear, even if you're reasonably tall like myself, because the motherfucker is six six, and so you have to tap his giant shoulder and then sort of motion with your head that you'd like to whisper into his ear, and then he leans down and you say, "Hey, is Jane the gay part of the Gay-Straight Alliance or the straight part?"
And Tiny leans down to my ear and whispers back, "Dunno. I think she had a boyfriend freshman year." I point out that Tiny Cooper had about 11,542 girlfriends freshman year, and then Tiny punches me in the arm in a way that he thinks is playful but actually causes permanent nerve damage.
Gary is rubbing Jane's arms up and down to keep her warm when finally the line starts to move. Then about five seconds later, we see this kid looking heartbroken, and he's precisely the kind of small-blond-tan guy Tiny Cooper would like, and so Tiny says, "What's wrong?" And then the kid answers, "It's over twenty-one only."
"You," I tell Tiny, stammering. "You bitchsquealer." I still don't know what it means, but it seems appropriate.
Tiny Cooper purses his lips and furrows his brow. He turns to Jane. "You got a fake ID?" Jane nods. Gary pipes up, "Me too," and I'm tensing my fists, my jaw locked, and I just want to scream, but instead I say, "Whatever, I'm going home," because I don't have a fake ID.
But then Tiny says real fast and real quiet, "Gary, hit me as hard as you can in the face when I'm showing my ID, and then, Grayson, you just walk behind me like you belong in the joint," and then no one says anything for a while, until Gary says, too loud, "Um, I don't really know how to hit." We're getting close to the bouncer, who has a large tattoo on his bald head, so Tiny just mumbles, "Yes you do. Just hit me hard."
I lag back a little, watching. Jane gives her ID to the bouncer. He shines a flashlight on it, glances up at her, and hands it back. Then it's Tiny's turn. I take a series of very quick, short breaths, because I read once that people with a lot of oxygen in their blood look calmer, and then I watch as Gary gets on his tiptoes and rears his arm back and wallops Tiny in the right eye. Tiny's head jerks back, and Gary screams, "Oh my God, ow ow, shit my hand," and the bouncer jumps up to grab Gary, and then Tiny Cooper turns his body to block the bouncer's view of me, and as Tiny turns, I walk into the bar like Tiny Cooper is my revolving door.
Once inside, I look back and see the bouncer holding Gary by the shoulders, and Gary grimacing while staring at his hand. Then Tiny puts a hand on the bouncer and says, "Dude, we were just fucking around. Good one though, Dwight." It takes me a minute to figure out that Gary is Dwight. Or Dwight is Gary.
The bouncer says, "He fucking hit you in the eye," and then Tiny says, "He owed me one," and then Tiny explains to the bouncer that both he and Gary/Dwight are members of the DePaul University football team, and that earlier in the weight room Tiny had spotted poorly or something. The bouncer says he played O-Line in high school, and then suddenly they're having a nice little chat while the bouncer glances at Gary's extrarordinarily fake ID, and then we are all four of us inside the Hideout, alone with Neutral Milk Hotel and a hundred strangers.
The people-sea surrounding the bar parts and Tiny gets a couple of beers and offers me one. I decline. "Why Dwight?" I ask. And Tiny says, "On his ID, he's Dwight David Eisenhower IV." And I say, "Where the frak did everyone get a fake ID anyway?" and then Tiny says, "There are places." I resolve to get one.
I say, "Actually, I will have a beer," mostly because I want something in my hand. Tiny hands me the one he's already started in on, and then I make my way up close to the stage without Tiny and without Gary and without Possibly Gay Jane. It's just me and the stage, which is only raised up about two feet in this joint, so if the lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel is particularly short--like if he is three feet ten inches tall--I will soon be looking him straight in the eye. Other people move up to the stage, and soon the place is packed. I've been here before for all-ages shows, but it's never been like this--the beer that I haven't sipped and don't intend to sweating in my hand, the well-pierced, tattooed strangers all around me. Every last soul in the Hideout right now is cooler than anyone in the Group of Friends. These people don't think there's anything wrong with me--they don't even notice me. They assume I am one of them, which feels like the very summit of my high school career. Here I am, standing on an over-twenty-one night at the best bar in America's second city, getting ready to be among a couple hundred people who see the reunion show of the greatest no-name band of the last decade.
These four guys come out onstage, and while they don't bear a striking resemblance to the members of Neutral Milk Hotel, I tell myself that, whatever, I've only seen pictures on the web. But then they start playing. I'm not quite sure how to describe this band's music, except to say that it sounds like a hundred thousand weasels being dropped into a boiling ocean. And then the guy starts singing:
She used to love me, yeah
But now she hates
She used to screw me, bro
But now she dates
Barring a prefrontal lobotomy, there's absolutely no way that the lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel would ever think, let alone write, let alone sing, such lyrics. And then I realize: I have waited outside in the cold gray-lit car-exhausted frigidity and caused the possible broken bones in Gary's hand to hear a band that is, manifestly, not Neutral Milk Hotel. And although he is nowhere amid the crowd of hushed and stunned NMH fans surrounding me, I immediately shout, "Damn you, Tiny Cooper!"
At the end of the song, my suspicions are confirmed when the lead singer says, to a reception of absolute silence, "Thank you! Thanks very much. NMH couldn't make it, but we're Ashland Avenue, and we're here to rock!" No, I think. You're Ashland Avenue and you're here to suck. Someone taps me on the shoulder then and I turn around and find myself staring at this unspeakably hot twenty-something girl with a labret piercing, flaming red hair, and boots up her calves. She says, askingly, "We thought Neutral Milk Hotel was playing?" and I look down and say, "Me--" I stammer for a second, and then say "too. I'm here for them, too."
The girl leans into my ear to shout above the atonal arrhythmic affront to decency that is Ashland Avenue. "Ashland Avenue is no Neutral Milk Hotel."
Something about the fullness of the room, or the strangeness of the stranger, has made me talkative, and I shout back, "Ashland Avenue is what they play to terrorists to make them talk." The girl smiles, and it's only now that I realize that she's conscious of the age difference. She asks me where I'm in school, and I say "Evanston," and she says, "High school?" And I say, "Yeah but don't tell the bartender," and she says, "I feel like a real pervert right now," and I say, "Why?" and she just laughs. I know the girl isn't really into me, but I still feel marginally pimping.
And then this huge hand settles on my shoulder, and I look down and see the middle school graduation ring he's worn on his pinkie ever since eighth grade and know immediately that it's Tiny. And to think, some idiots claim that the gays have fashion sense.
I turn around and Tiny Cooper is crying huge tears. One of Tiny Cooper's tears could drown a kitten. And I mouth WHAT'S WRONG because Ashland Avenue is sucking too loudly for him to hear me, and Tiny Cooper just hands me his phone and walks away. It's showing me Tiny's Facebook feed, zoomed in on a status update.
Zach is like the more i think about it the more i think y ruin a gr8 frendship? i still think tiny's awesum tho.
I push my way through a couple people to Tiny, and I pull down his shoulder and scream into his ear, "THAT'S PRETTY FUCKING BAD," and Tiny shouts back, "I GOT DUMPED BY STATUS UPDATE," and I answer, "YEAH, I NOTICED. I MEAN, HE COULD HAVE AT LEAST TEXTED. OR E-MAILED. OR SENT A PASSENGER PIGEON."
"WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?" Tiny shouts in my ear, and I want to say, "Hopefully, go find a guy who knows there is no u in awesome," but I just shrug my shoulders and pat him firmly on the back, and guide him away from Ashland Avenue and toward the bar.
Which, as it turns out, is something of a mistake. Just before we get to the bar, I see Possibly Gay Jane hovering by a tall table. She tells me Gary has left in disgust. "It was a publicity ploy by Ashland Avenue, apparently," she says.
I say, "But no NMH fan would ever listen to this drivel."
Then Jane looks up at me all pouty and big-eyed and says, "My brother is the guitarist."
I feel like a total asshole and say, "Oh, sorry, dude."
And she says, "Christ, I'm kidding. If he were, I'd disown him." At some point during our four-second conversation I have managed to completely lose Tiny, which is no easy task, so I tell Jane about Tiny's great Facebook wall of dumpage, and she is still laughing when Tiny appears at our table with a round tray holding six shot glasses full of a greenish liquid. "I don't really drink," I remind Tiny, and he nods. He pushes a shot toward Jane, and Jane just shakes her head.
Tiny takes a shot, grimaces, and exhales. "Tastes like Satan's fire cock," Tiny says, and then pushes another shot in my direction. "Sounds delightful," I say, "but I'll pass."