Evanston and Authenticity, an Update

Posted in Favorite Books, Geography at 3:25 pm by Janet

Now that we’ve had a book discussion at the library about Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I can report on the reactions of some actual teen readers. First of all, this group of girls really liked the book. They definitely preferred Will Grayson to grumpy will grayson. They thought Jane was awesome. They liked Tiny but found him a little over the top. Some of them even said the book made them want to join their school’s Gay-Straight alliance.

Since the issue of geographical/Evanston/Chicagoland authenticity was stuck in my craw, I brought it up to the group. The kids told me that it was important to them that geographical details ring true–they make the book seem authentic and grounded. They said the Chicago stuff seemed real, for the most part. Some of them wanted to figure out if Frenchy’s really does exist and where exactly it is (!). Then I asked them about Evanston’s high school. They were all pretty much convinced that the events in the book could not have taken place at ETHS because it’s full of gangsters and thugs. Now, it should be stated that ETHS and their high school are rivals, and that as a result certain stereotypes about ETHS may exist in their minds. I have to take their comments with a grain of salt. I’m still waiting to hear from someone who actually did go to ETHS to get a second opinion on that one. Bottom line, geographical authenticity does matter to teen readers (at least on Chicago’s North Shore). Writers, keep doing your homework.

A last word: although ETHS’s mascot really is Willy the Wildkit, there are no murals at ETHS, the girls in my group reported. So here’s my virtual mural:




  1. Bridget said,

    August 15, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I’m glad to hear the book was a hit! Argh though, who likes to do RESEARCH? Bleck. What about just makin’ stuff up?
    I’m all about that.
    The kids of Chicago’s North Shore are going to eat me alive!

  2. Amanda said,

    August 16, 2010 at 10:21 am

    I love your mural! Down, kitty.

  3. Ann P said,

    August 16, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I love that kids from New Trier think ETHS is full of gangsters. So North Shore! But I also like that they care about the accuracy of the setting. I always do. As a rule I trust the author.

  4. Janet said,

    August 17, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Bridget, if you don’t do your research, I am going to send an army of angry North Shore kids after you! They’ll have pitchforks! And angry tutors! Yeah, I don’t know since when fiction has stopped being about making stuff up. But I guess people like some truth with their lies. Hmphf.

  5. Ann P said,

    August 18, 2010 at 7:25 am

    That’s why fantasy is so popular. You can make the whole thing up. The author still has to be consistent, but she sets the rules. The reader can imagine anything within the parameters the author sets.

  6. Jay edwards said,

    November 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Doyouhail from Edina,mn?

  7. Lilly said,

    November 4, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    ETHS is not full of thugs and gangsters. It is a High School like any other, and has problems like any other. If you were to take a walk down the hallways, you would find a bunch of kids who are really proud to be wildkits. We love our school. Yea, there have been a few incedents with violence but please, i could write off a rival school as a bunch of snooty white kids who know nothing about the real world. And it wouldn’t be true for the majority. I got E-Town pride .

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