I know,I know, it’s June and now I’m telling you about April’s bookswap. What can I say? We read the books, but then it was the Marathon and 3 weeks of GCSEs and the Hay Festival, and three more weeks of GCSEs. So we never got round to the conversation (and are two months behind on reading). But that’s all behind us now. GCSEs are done and Beth is fired up by her ‘A’ Level English reading list (which helpfully coincides with several of the books on our list) so here we are again.
We’ve been noticing our books seem to have an unintentional connection (March were both set in Africa and both in a way dealt with colonialism; February books both featured orphans and being trapped by situations; January young oppressed women finding their voices) which this month is coming out stories.
Beth’s book for me was ‘Will Grayson, Will Grayson’ by John Green and David Leviathan
This is what she said: A guy named Will Grayson meets another guy named Will Grayson. Hilarity ensues. Again, a bit rude, but it’s by John Green so you know it’s gotta be good. A+
This is what I said: The book is structured on an interesting premise. Each author writes ‘their’ Will Grayson in alternating chapters. Green’s Will is straight, but an inadvertent public supporter of gay rights because he felt impelled to stand up for his best friend Tiny (who is actually huge). Like many lifelong friends they drive each other crazy but love each other deeply even if they can’t say it. Leviathan’s Will is gay and depressed, hangs out with a girl in class playing a game of deliberate disaffection while he conducts an on-line affair with a boy from out of town.
The two Wills meet by chance in a bookshop when straight Will can’t get into a concert with Tiny and his friends and gay Will has just discovered his on-line lover is a fictional creation of his day time female friend. This encounter leads to Tiny and gay Will getting together in a passionate relationship bound to end in tears, whilst straight Will grapples with jealousy and tries to work out what he really feels about Tiny’s friend, Jane. All set to the backdrop of Tiny somewhat improbably putting a school musical based on his life and featuring a thinly disguised straight Will.
I enjoyed it a lot, because both writers make you care about each Will and both narratives get to the heart of adolescent insecurities well. I have to say I did find Tiny a bit twee and OTT, and the whole musical thing passed me by (but no doubt appealed to the Glee generation) but it s well paced and makes you feel for the characters. Not as good as ‘A Fault in Our Stars’ but I enjoyed it none the less.
My book for Beth was supposed to be ‘Pride and Prejudice’ but I got muddled and gave her ‘Oranges are not the only Fruit’ by Jeanette Winterson
This is what I said: This brilliant coming of age novel details the struggles of a young girl, growing up in a deeply religious family. When she discovers she is gay she realises she will have to choose between God and her family and the person she wants to be. A fictional account of real experience, Winterson says this is the story she could bear to tell at the time. A+++
This is what Beth said: I thought it was good. I really liked the division of chapters, Genesis,Exodus and the biblical theme. That was quite clever. I really liked the central character who refused to agree that anything was wrong with her though everyone was telling her she shouldn’t be gay. I liked the wandering stories, and I understood the point of them,, but they really frustrated me as I wanted to end each story and they didn’t finish! So now we have to do a bit of catching up. My book for Beth is ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens. Since Dickens is on her reading list and she has to write a review, she’s ready to get going on that one. I’ve made a start on ‘Clockwork Angel’ by Cassandra Clare, which I’m enjoying so far…Will be back as soon as we can to tell you what I think.