Literary Themes

Some Common Themes…

Music/ Pop Culture

Music is referenced throughout the story, and is used to draw characters to each other. Tiny and Will go to many shows together, and Jane gets Will a fake i.d. simply to get into 21+ venues. The characters swap musical tastes and band names throughout the book.

Music groups- real and fictional- are introduced and alluded to frequently, and weave their way into the plot. Bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel and the Maybe Dead Cats can be classified in the alternative genre, particularly sparking interest between Jane and Will. The music is relative to the characters personalities. Will is nonchalant and a bit obscure, much like the bands he fancies. Tiny’s musical is flamboyantly fabulous, much like himself, and his songs tend to be larger than life.

Informal Writing Style

The chapters written by David Levithan (will grayson) are entirely in lowercase. As well, when a character speaks in these chapters, it is written almost as if someone were transcribing the conversation:

                me: who are you?

                tiny: tiny cooper!

                me: you can’t really be named tiny.

                tiny: no. that’s irony.

For some readers, they have said that it is a distraction. Levithan’s intention seems to make the dialogue switch seamlessly in the same style between text messages, online instant messages, and spoken word. It has a much more conversational flow, and also allows the reader a look into the literal thoughts of the character. It makes will grayson seem almost like an online personality in his informal narration.


Chronic depression is built into the character of will grayson. The theme of despondency and loneliness is a prominent one with him. will hones his depression, and laces everything in cynicism and anger- “i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me.” He uses it as an excuse to push people away, mainly the two women in his life- Maura and his mother. Similarly, the other Will uses his nonchalance and his “not caring” as a similar device. He figures that he will be able to more easily fly under the radar and remain unnoticed if he does not devote too much of himself to one particular thing.

These kind of behaviors contribute to the failures or stagnation in the respective charcters’ relationships. Tiny and will encounter a seemingly inevitable breakup due to will’s self-hatred- and in part to Tiny’s self-absorption. Eventually, as the two begin talking to peers about their emotions and rationale for their behavior, the reader can see them change from the beginning of the story.

Touch-and-go Friendship

At the best of times, Tiny and Will’s friendship is scattered. The book does a remarkable job of showing the precarious balance of the attention and care that the two show to each other. This is juxtaposed with distance and apathy as each concerns himself with new developments. As Tiny throws himself into his musical- an auto-biographical performance about his tale of coming-out- Will takes notice of his “beckon call” attitude.

As Jane and Will begin their relationship, Tiny and he grow apart. They seem to be quite to odd pair to begin with. Their differences are showcased as they date, break-up, and recover from heartache. The two Wills run the maze of gaining, losing and reassessing friendships at a very real pace.


will grayson  has an air of self-deprecation as he talks about himself, and he seems to have a difficult time in admitting his homosexuality. He does at one point in the story “come out” to the reader, but he has a nearly impossible time talking to his mother of friends about it. Interestingly enough, he has the easiest time telling a perfect stranger, Isaac, across the internet.

The theme of identity and the “self” is within nearly every YA text. It illustrates the process by which an adolescent comes into their own: growing up by making difficult decisions, developing differing opinions from their peers, and ultimately, conforming of separating from a group. LGBT YA is a great resource for allusions to this particular theme, as this particular sub-genre features characters who are struggling not only with the search for their identity of young adulthood, but of their sexual identity.


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