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Hold Me Closer
glassflypaper 07/18/2019 03:00 AM CST

YA novels have been written in the form of letters, diary entries, text messages . . . and now, in a long-anticipated follow-up to John Green and David Levithan’s collaboration Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the script of a musical theater production. In Green and Levithan’s original book, the 16-year-old openly gay, bodily large and ironically named “Tiny” Cooper writes and directs a musical, which fans now have the chance to read in its entirety.

Scenes vary from the outright hilarious (the requisite pun-filled locker room scene) to the amusingly ironic (a literal parade of ex-boyfriends) to the contemplative (Tiny’s father’s struggle with—and ultimate decision to—join him for a Mother-Daughter fashion show). The text, composed predominately of rhymed verse, includes lots of allusions to other musicals, insightful advice about love (a breakup means “you must rearrange your heart / It might feel like the end of the world / but it’s the beginning of your art”) and exactly the sort of easy acceptance that characterizes David Levithan’s work (“You’re gay? / Next you’re gonna tell me the sky is blue / that you use girl shampoo / that critics don't appreciate Blink-182”).

Levithan has accomplished something truly special in this confection of a book. Although its format is its most obviously unique feature, what ultimately stands out is its mixture of over-the-top silliness and deep emotional honesty. Unlike in Levithan’s groundbreaking Boy Meets Boy, there’s no apologetic half-fantasy component here: Hold Me Closer demonstrates loudly and gloriously that contemporary gay-centered YA lit no longer needs such literary crutches to succeed. List Mario Games online!