Grease Is The Word by Simon James Green

Simon James Green (who happens to be one of my favourite UKYA novelists), is blessing us with yet another LGBTQ+ book. This time, inspired by Grease! You’re The One That I Want is hitting shelves on THURSDAY! That’s right, Thursday the 3rd of June, and i cannot wait for everyone to get their hands on it. But for today’s post, Simon himself has written us a post all about You’re The One That I Want and his love for Grease, the inspiration behind the book!

When I decided to finally mine my background in theatre and performing arts for a YA novel, picking Grease as the production the book centres around was a no-brainer. Grease was one of the first shows I saw as a wide-eyed kid in the West End; the energy, sparkle and pizazz blew me away and ignited a life-long love of musical theatre. And Grease was also the show where I made my secondary school acting debut, as – wait for it – Eugene! (Because, of course I was Eugene, and if you’ve ever met me, or read Noah, then you’ll know why.)

Grease has always had a special place in my heart, but it also suited some of themes I wanted to explore in the book really well – it’s the perfect vehicle for a story that’s about transformation. Freddie is convinced he needs to change himself in order for his life to be better, and in order to win the heart of a boy he likes, just as Sandy ends up reinventing herself too. To be honest, I’ve always slightly struggled with that aspect of Grease – this notion that Sandy isn’t good enough as she was, and is only ‘acceptable’ once she’s had her hair done a certain way and is wearing a leather jacket. Movies are awash with ‘geeky’ kids who suddenly become ‘hot’ because they take their glasses off or let their hair down. I hate that. I hate the idea that there’s one way you should look, and anything else is unattractive. Not once do those narratives spotlight kindness, humour, or intelligence as attractive qualities – it’s all about blending in with the cool kid aesthetic.

It gave me great pleasure, in You’re the One That I Want, to flip that idea on its head. Freddie absolutely is good enough, he just needs to be with the right guy who likes him for who he is. Change by all means, but do it for you, not for anyone else.

Grease is also chock-full of male posturing. I guess part of the show’s charm is the High School stereotypes, and we absolutely have to view it in the context of the time it was written, and the era it’s set in, but that doesn’t stop me finding some of endless machismo tedious. During one of the rehearsals, Ruby describes one of the T-Bird routines as the ‘toxic masculinity dance’, so the other piece of fun I had in this book is making sure a number of the T-Bird boys were getting it on. I’ve always preferred the idea of Danny and Doody anyway – I think that’s a much more interesting combo – and based on my experiences of the theatre world it’s also the much likelier off-stage situation!

I like to think of You’re the One That I Want as the cast of Sex Education putting on a production of Grease – with all the chaos that implies. I hope it gives you chills… and I hope they’re multiplying.

Thank you to Simon and the team at Scholastic for letting us be apart of this wonderful release! Also a huge thank you to Simon for treating us to a little look in to the book! I’m so excited for everyone to get a copy of You’re The One That I Want. Make sure to get your copy on Thursday the 3rd of June!

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