The Lure of Team Written Books: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

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Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Note: Not the movie version cover
I hugely enjoy team written books. It's possible the first one that really registered off the scale on my YA literature radar was Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel CohnThese two writers refined the idea of using alternating chapters with different points of view (in this case, the two protagonists, one male, one female) to push a story along in the most compelling way.  The book is sweet, funny, poignant and sexy and in one night, two characters grow more than they did in the months preceding.  I've actually given it as presents to kids who have found it life-altering. Full confession: I couldn't bring myself to watch the movie.  (I have an issue with books into movies - I believe the motion picture industry, in a vain attempt to avoid original work, attempts to find excellent books and then ruin them onscreen.  Nicholas Sparks is the exception to this rule; his books are "neh" but the movies are usually much better.)  I think a book with so much internal monologue is destined for disaster on the movie screen since either you do voice over and it's cheesy, or you leave out all the vulnerable internal stuff and the characters look snarky (which happened here based on my watching trailer clips and interviewing kids who actually watched it and were terribly disappointed).  I also hate it when the sad, pathetic friend with a drinking problem is the comic relief - there is plenty that is incredibly funny about the book, but alcoholism isn't part of it.

David and Rachel followed it up with another good effort (although not as earth-shattering as Nick and Nora's Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, about two best friends who have to come to terms with their feelings when a boy comes between them and causes them to confront truths about their relationship.  In a similar vein, I was excited to see that they have a new project due to come out this fall, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, so I'll be buying a couple copies for the library very soon. So we know David Levithan is a genius cowriter when he's got Rachel Cohn in his back pocket, but what about someone else?  Enter John Green, genius, Printz award winner, cofounder of Nerdfighters Made of Awesome, and premier video blogger.  The perfect collaborator for a very special book.  Anyone who can turn out amazing books like Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines (my all-time John Green favorite) and Paper Towns deserves to wear a sparkly crown and have people bow to his every whim.

Will Grayson, Will GraysonWill Grayson, Will Grayson is definitely a good union of these two author's styles.  I was actually surprised at how dark the David Levithan portion was, but let me explain the premise first in case you haven't heard anything about the book.  Here's the description from the website:
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.
 Readers familiar with Levithan and Green's individual books will easily tell who wrote which chapters.  David Levithan's Will Grayson is a dark, depressed individual struggling to come to terms with his family life and his sexuality and the tone of these pages reminded me a lot of Levithan's book about 9-11, Love is the Higher Law.   John Green's style is obvious with his usual trademarks in evidence - a vulnerable, funny Will Grayson placed in often absurd situations who happens to have a vibrant sidekick, in this case the over-the-top, football playing, musical writing, very out of the closet, Tiny Cooper.  At a recent YALSA session featuring John Green, a librarian asked when we could expect Tiny Cooper on Broadway and the whole room burst into excited applause (no musical is planned as of yet).  There were times that the Chicago area setting felt a little like an homage to John Hughes' films - I could even hear the uber cool playlist in the background.  Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a great addition to each authors collection and it's great to see two such different writer merge styles into such a successful project.

Let It Snow: Three Holiday RomancesIn thinking about highly successful collaborative writing projects, I have to plug a project that did not get enough press when it came out.  Let It Snow is a fantastic project John Green wrote with Maureen Johnson (known for her Scarlet books) and Lauren Myracle (of ttyl fame).  Also written in alternating chapters starring different characters, a Christmas blizzard intertwines the lives of these teens as they find romance and friendship, sometimes where they least expect it during an often extremely surreal holiday.  John Green seems to have two partners in his often bizarre and laugh out loud sense of humor so anyone who has enjoyed his books would do well to pick this one up, whether or not it's Christmas or just Christmas in July.