Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David LevithanWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Publisher: Speak
Number of pages: 301
My copy: paperback, Christmas gift from a colleague

will grayson, meet will grayson

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers cross paths. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in heroic turns-of-heart and the most epic musical ever to grace the high school stage.

* * *

There was a time soon after I graduated college that I was so obsessed with High School Musical. I was unemployed, and I was a kid at heart who can’t stop watching Disney Channel all day while I did nothing, so when I saw the trailer for High School Musical, I was curious. Then I watched it, and watched it and I couldn’t stop. I loved the entire thing. I even bought the book, and then watched the movie(s) and played the songs until I got sick of it all. But I have fond memories of those movies, and sometimes I kinda wish that I can break into song any time and people will just join me in singing…even if I can’t sing. Haha.

But anyway. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan features two Will Graysons who meet one night in the strangest place in Chicago.. There’s the “don’t speak, don’t participate” Will Grayson, best friend to Tiny Cooper, a large and gay guy who heads their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. All Will is concerned with is not getting noticed, but being friends with Tiny Cooper makes that difficult. And then there’s Tiny’s friend Jane, who seems nice, but Will wasn’t sure if she’s straight or not. And then there’s Will # 2, or will grayson (without the caps), who lives a hard and isolated life, with just an online friend named Isaac making his life easier. The two Wills meet one night, and then their lives change…and it all goes down in a high school musical made by Tiny Cooper.

It seemed like the best time to read a John Green book where he wrote with someone else is always around the holiday season. Or maybe I’m just saying that now because last year, I read Let It Snow around Christmas time too, and I enjoyed it, so when I was looking for a happy book to read during the holidays this year, I decided to read this book. I was already tickled by the first chapter — classic Green, introducing his main characters: a lead who isn’t really interested in standing out, a girl who seems partially unattainable, and a loud sidekick (except this time we have a louder and bigger sidekick). It was cute, and then I go into the other will’s world and I was plunged into a dark, depressing world. I almost stopped — what was this? Why is this will so sad? And why is it taking so long for the two Wills to meet?

I honestly thought I wouldn’t like it, especially since I felt that will’s chapters were too depressing. Granted, will was depressed, but I wanted to finish his chapters so I can go back to the other Will, who was partially pleasant. That, and it was kind of fun reading Tiny Cooper, even if it seems like the book should have been about him because…well, it was all about him. Suddenly he didn’t seem like a sidekick. But anyway, I found Will’s chapters funnier, and I liked the cute little “dancing” thing he had with Jane. It was something you’d expect from John Green, really, and it was really nice to read.

I really thought I wouldn’t like the book, but then I got to the end and I actually found myself tearing up at some parts. I think the best part of this book isn’t the romance, or even the Will Graysons meeting, but Will’s friendship with Tiny. It reminded me a little of my own friendships with people and how true it was with how we all just happened to be friends, and we didn’t really seek each other out at first. Although I don’t completely buy the fact about you can’t pick who your friends are, I like the sentiment that Will expressed when he told Tiny that if he could pick his friends, he would still pick Tiny. That was really heartwarming.

The ending did feel a little contrived, but I thought it was sweet and funny, especially at the exchanging numbers part. Hihi. But it was a nice way to end it, especially since I’ve long suspended my disbelief with how the musical came together and all that. Just like in High School Musical – you don’t really think what they did could happen in real life, right? But still, it was fun to watch, and it was a nice and sweet ending. Same with Will Grayson, Will Grayson: the ending was nice and heartwarming, and I actually found tears in my eyes by the time I ended the book.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson isn’t exactly the best holiday read (or…I don’t think it really counts as one, really), but I enjoyed reading it. Oh, and I remember people telling me that Tiny Cooper is the best John Green sidekick…but I think I’m still a Radar – Paper Towns kind of girl. :D

Number of dog-eared pages: 30

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost – the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed. (p. 174)

It seems to me that all things we keep in sealed boxes are both alive and dead until we open the box, that the unobserved is both there and not. (p. 197)

When you date someone, you have markers along the way, right. You kiss, you have The Talk, you say the Three Little Words, you sit on a swing set and break up. You can plot the points on a graph…But with friendship, there’s nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that’s something you choose. Being friends, that’s just something you are. (p. 260)

We’ve been friends too long to pick, but if we could pick, I’d pick you. (p. 260)

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Oops, I Read A Book Again


Pink by Lili WilkinsonPink by Lili Wilkinson
HarperCollins, 304 pages

Ava has a secret. She is tired of her ultracool attitude, ultra-radical politics, and ultrablack clothing. She’s ready to try something new—she’s even ready to be someone new. Someone who fits in, someone with a gorgeous boyfriend, someone who wears pink.

Transferring to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence is the perfect chance to try on a new identity. But just in case things don’t work out, Ava is hiding her new interests from her parents, and especially from her old girlfriend.

Secrets have a way of being hard to keep, though, and Ava finds that changing herself is more complicated than changing her wardrobe. Even getting involved in the school musical raises issues she never imagined. As she faces surprising choices and unforeseen consequences, Ava wonders if she will ever figure out who she really wants to be.

Humor, heart, and the joys of drama—on- and offstage—combine in Ava’s delight-fully colorful journey of self-discovery.

Ava is sixteen, and she has a secret. No, her secret is not that she’s gay and that she has a girlfriend. Her secret is this: she wants to be a normal girl. Ava is 16, and she has very liberal parents and she has an ultra-radical, ultra-feminist and ultra-cool girlfriend, Chloe, who she knows she loves. But Ava is tired of being ultra-cool and always wearing black. She wants to care about school. She wants to study. She wants to fit in. She wants to even try dating a guy. And, she wants to wear pink. So Ava works her butt off so she can get a scholarship to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, so she can try to have a normal life without the knowledge of her girlfriend or her parents. She gets in, and she immediately wants to be a part of the popular crowd up until it was time for the audition for the school musical. Ava tried out for a part, but fails miserably, and ends up joining the stage crew, a group of “losers” according to the popular group. However, as Ava spends more time with her new friends — she is not even sure who are the real friends, if it’s with the stage crew or the popular kids — she finds it harder and harder to keep her secrets.

I have this weird compulsion to acquire pink things. Some people I know in real life are often amused at the number of pink things I own. Would you believe that even in acquiring a gadget, the availability of the color pink is a factor in my decision? :p I used to deny that my favorite color is pink because I thought it was too girly, but as I grew older I cannot deny the fact that I kept on gravitating towards that color. But that’s really not the reason why I wanted to read Pink by Lili Wilkinson. I borrowed this from my friend Celina after Chachic was done with it because I was curious with all the positive reviews that this book has been getting from other bloggers I know. That, and it was written by an Australian author, and based on experience, Australian YA books are always good reads. And so here we go.

I have to agree with almost everyone else that Pink was loads of fun. This book had all the ingredients of a typical contemporary novel: somewhat outrageous premise, popular and unpopular kids, parties and secrets, but I liked how the author made these elements more interesting with other details, such as the theater set up! I loved reading about Ava’s experiences as part of the stage crew. Back in high school, we used to produce stage plays for one class and I have always loved that time of the year when we had to do rehearsals, find costume and music and then stay up late in school to set up our stage and props and fix the music. I’ve never been one to want to be onstage — I tend to avoid that as much as possible. I love working backstage more. My favorite scenes in the book would have to be the ones when they were busy setting up the lights and their first run (their dress rehearsal, I think?), where Sam was in the main control room giving orders to everyone through their headsets. Our high school didn’t have that, but we had a main control room for the sounds, and I can remember how cool I felt when I wore a headset for a production for my church community with that scene.

I generally liked all of the characters, although I felt a bit lost with Ava. Ava was definitely confused, and I have to be patient with her at times because I have to remember she’s young and some stupid decisions are made when we do not know better. Some of her mistakes were not just stupid but downright mean, and I felt like sometimes I was just waiting for a car crash to happen. It’s not that I had a hard time connecting with Ava . I just wished she would not keep on swinging everywhere to please people and just try to look at what she wants. I also thought some of the characters felt a little bit cardboard, although they did gain more dimension in the end. And I know I was supposed to be on the Ava-Chloe team but Chloe really annoyed me with all her feminist/liberal/I’m-too-cool-for-these-things talk. Seriously? I had to sympathize with Ava there — it must be exhausting to keep up that kind of image if it does not come to you naturally.

I liked that the author did not go for a 100% happily ever after ending, although I felt like Ava did not really resolve all her own issues there. She seemed less confused in the end, but I’m afraid she ended up as one of those female protagonists that I would remember for that and not for her strength.

I also loved all the geeky Wikipedia talk, and the random facts that Sam blurts out in the conversations. This is a guy who would rather read than play Nintendo DS. I would definitely insert a character like that in my next novel. :P Despite my misgivings with some of the main character, I still thought Pink was still pretty entertaining read. And I’m not just saying that because my favorite color is pink. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

My copy: borrowed from Celina

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Steph Su Reads
Persnickety Snark
The Crooked Shelf

The God Box

The God Box by Alex SanchezThe God Box by Alex Sanchez
Simon and Schuster, 272 pages

How could I choose between my sexuality and my spirituality, two of the most important parts that made me whole?

High school senior Paul has dated Angie since middle school, and they’re good together. They have a lot of the same interests, like singing in their church choir and being active in Bible club. But when Manuel transfers to their school, Paul has to rethink his life. Manuel is the first openly gay teen anyone in their small town has ever met, and yet he says he’s also a committed Christian. Talking to Manuel makes Paul reconsider thoughts he has kept hidden, and listening to Manuel’s interpretation of Biblical passages on homosexuality causes Paul to reevaluate everything he believed. Manuel’s outspokenness triggers dramatic consequences at school, culminating in a terrifying situation that leads Paul to take a stand.

Paul considers himself a perfectly ordinary high school guy, striving to be good in every way he can be. He’s been dating his best friend Angie since middle school, sings for his church choir, and active in his school’s Bible club. Underneath his smooth facade hides his struggles that he keeps on praying for, until he meets Manuel, the first openly gay person he’s met who’s also a committed Christian. Paul tries to deny the attraction he feels for Manuel, believing that it is wrong. But as he spends more time with Manuel, talking about their faith and homosexuality, Paul wonders if maybe he was wrong after all this time.

The God Box by Alex Sanchez is my first LGBT book ever. I tend to steer away from LGBT books because I’m not really that interested in them, until I saw this book and got it because of the Christian aspect. Homosexuality is one of those big issues that could easily spark a fire of debate among Christians and non-Christians alike. I never thought I’d have a hard time about it — I’ve had gay friends, and it didn’t really matter much to me because they were already openly gay when I met them. It’s different when someone comes out to you — the basic things I know about my faith back then tells me that it’s wrong, but another part of me says that discriminating because of that is also just as wrong, maybe even worse. Who am I to judge, anyway?

The God Box spoke a lot to me and reinforced the things I’ve learned years since my friend came out to me, things that I remind myself in my everyday life. I think, as much as this book is about homosexuality, it can also be a book about bullying. Or being different. It’s a book about intolerance and how this can lead to cruelty, especially coming from Christians who interpret the Bible literally and forget the one important thing that God called us to do. The God Box is a message book that tackles the given topic quite nicely, and I think that Alex Sanchez did a good job with the Biblical arguments and how some of the anti-LGBT arguments are just Bible verses interpreted literally to suit an intolerant attitude.

However, as much as The God Box has a good message in its heart, I’m afraid the execution of it leaves little to be desired. I was a little bored with the story and the characters were, if not cliche, very flat. Everyone seemed to be just black and white: you’re either for or against the issue. Manuel, as cool as he is, felt a little bit too perfect and too Mary Sue (or Gary Stu?), with what how everything revolved around him and how blameless he was made to be. More often than not, the story wasn’t showing — it was just telling, and that kept me distant to Paul as a character. I think the only one I really liked and related to was Angie, who played the role of a seemingly perfect tolerant girlfriend.

It wasn’t bad, but it’s not that great either. I think The God Box would be a good book to discuss in book clubs or in church for its message and not its writing. There are a lot of good arguments that was presented in the book, but I think it still has to be read with guidance from open-minded church/community leaders so as to really discuss the issues surrounding homosexuality and the call for Christians to love.

And I think that’s what it is all about really: love. That is the one important thing that we Christians are called to do. A good friend once told me, “It is better to be loving than to be right.” I agree. I liked what Paul’s grandmother had to say about love and the Bible:

“…the Bible was meant to be a bridge, not a wedge…it’s the greatest love story ever told, about God’s enduring and unconditional love for his creation — love beyond all reason. To understand it, you have to read it with love as the standard. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. Always remember that.” (p. 171)

In the end, that is what I am always going back to: love. Like I said, who am I to judge? And I’d like to believe that the God I believe in is always bigger than the things that I don’t understand, and He just wants me to love the people He brings into my life, regardless of race or age or gender or religion. Maybe if we, regardless of our faith, approached issues with a firm determination to love first above anything else, then maybe (pardon the cheesiness) this will be a better world to live in.

Rating: [rating=3]

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – July

My copy: paperback from Powerbooks

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Book Gazing
Helen’s Book Blog
The Black Sheep

In My Mailbox (4)

I meant to write an In My Mailbox post last week, but I was too tired from my second 10-km race that I just fell into bed the moment I got home. So this week’s In My Mailbox will cover a two-week period, because I actually have a lot to post about since the last.

You know what that meant, right? I know I said I won’t buy books anymore…but I. Can’t. Resist. Somebody stop me.

In My Mailbox is a weekly book meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren, where bloggers post about what books received that week, be it via  mailbox, library or store. I’ve separated the photos on the stash per week, and excuse the slightly crappy quality of the images — used my camera phone and it doesn’t have that good lighting, as compared to if I use proper ones, like Kichler lighting. I’ll make it up next week. :)

So, here’s last week’s stash:

  1. The God Box by Alex Sanchez
    (Powerbooks, P339, less 20%) I’ve been seeing Alex Sanchez’s books for a while now, but I have never picked any up because I think most of his works fall under LGBT. It’s just not really my thing. I got this one because this is a book that dealt with LGBT and religion. This is a very sensitive topic, one that I don’t think I always fully understand, so I thought this book should be an informative one, at least as far as my faith would be concerned.
  2. The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
    (Fully Booked, P399, less 10%) I remember seeing another version of this book at National Bookstore, but I passed it up. Then I saw a lot of good reviews and I couldn’t find the copy! It wasn’t until I was browsing in Fully Booked Eastwood when I saw it again, but I opted to get the other books first before this. I knew I would absolutely regret it if I don’t get it, so I finally caved in. I wanted to get it at the same time I got The Book Thief, but then I remembered I have a discount at Fully Booked, so I just got it there. Yay.
  3. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
    (Powerbooks, P339, less 20%) I think I heard about this first during the Goodreads meet up, but I didn’t know what it was until I saw the book. Should I even ask why I got it? It was highly recommended. Thank God for the sale.
  4. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
    (National Bookstore, P315, less 20%) So I wasn’t really planning on getting anything that Sunday, but when I got to National Bookstore, I remembered that it was also sale time! When I saw a paperback copy of this book, I just grabbed it. I’ve read so many good reviews about this that I was curious, and the hardbound is just a bit too expensive to splurge on. The best part is, I used my Laking National card (a loyalty points card in one of the bookstores in the Philippines) and used my accumulated points to get the book. In short, I sort of got this book for free. :)

And here’s this week’s stash!

  1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
    (National Bookstore, P99) I already have a copy of this book, but when I saw the hardcover of this book for less than a hundred, I knew I had to get it. I don’t think I’ll be keeping it, though — I think I’ll put it up for giveaway on our next meet up. :)
  2. Press release pack for Table for Two by Marla Miniano from Summit Media
    I think it was Tuesday when I suddenly got called to the reception area at work. Turns out I have something from Summit Media, the press release pack for their newest novel, Table for Two. If I had known I’d be getting a free copy of this book, I would not have bought it! But then it’s okay. This means I can give away my extra copy, too. :)I have a feeling why I got a press package, though. Maybe it’s connected to some belated presents? I think so. Thanks, Ro! :)
  3. Catch a Falling Star by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo
    (National Bookstore, P150) I wanted to get this other anthology, Stories When We Were Little (Women), I think, by the same author, but it was a bit too expensive for my budget. I wanted to get something local, and this was the cheapest one I found. I’ve heard so much about this author thanks to Sam. :)
  4. The Dead Of Night by John Marsden
    (National Bookstore, P339, less 75%) This isn’t really my kind of book. But I read Aaron‘s review for the first book, and thought I’d give it a try. But this isn’t the first book, so why did I get it? Aside from it being sale (got it for P84! How could I pass that up?), the Mighty Evil Overlord told me he would give me a copy of the first book as a gift. Getting ready for the series, I guess? :)

And that was the past two weeks for me in terms of books. Next week will be a bigger week because of the following: (1) a new toy is coming; and (2) Grace and Jana and I are planning to do a bookstore hopping day on Saturday, since it’s book sale season and it’s payday this week. Watch out for that. :)

What’s in your mailbox this week? I’d love to see your stash — leave a comment with the link so I can drop by. :)