Thursday, February 7, 2013

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: a review

By Jesse Andrews
Amulet Books: New York: Copyright: 2012
295 pgs - Teen (keywords): realistic fiction, cancer, death

A review in 10 words or less:  A confession, in so many words, about friendship and death.

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

~Goodreads Description~

The breakdown:
Greg Gaines is just trying to make it through high school in one piece, and he think he's pretty sure he's discovered the secret to unblissful happiness...befriend no one and hopefully keep yourself from being pummeled.  When a "friend" from his past is diagnosed with leukemia, Greg finds himself in a sticky situation.  By following his mother's orders and spending time with Rachel, he's throwing himself into the ring, taking sides, forced to eat in the cafeteria with other people.  Not his first choice.
Then there's Earl Jackson, the closest thing that Greg has to a friend, and as Greg puts it, their more like co-workers.  In a mutual state of misery, Greg and Earl find common ground making movies.  Really bad movies, but for years it has been their own little secret.  But then Earl meets Rachel, and Rachel discovers Gaines/Jackson productions, and the semi-life that Greg has built for himself is on shaky ground.

The Awesome:

"Chapter 1 - How it is possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad".  That's right.  Fun chapter titles.  One of my FAVORITE fun book inclusions.  They are a wee bit foreshadowing, 100% hilarious, and basically the definition of awesome.

About this hilarious business...Greg Gaines is all sorts of funny.  You really just have to experience it for yourself.  I could try to explain, but there's no way I would do it justice.  Jesse Andrews has created an everyman teenager...well, a specific type of everyman, so maybe he's not an everyman.  That doesn't make any sense, but I'm going to keep going with this anyway.  This everyman teenager is emotionally stunted, completely self-deprecating, and absolutely brilliant but just doesn't see it yet.  He's kind of a great guy.  Or at least he will be in a few years.

The Not So Awesome:
Hmmm...I don't know.  There were a few things that made me only like not LOVE the book.  All the talk of the social groups at the beginning of the story give this build up for an interesting semester, but school is really kind of dropped.  So when Greg becomes, in a way, a social pariah, it's hard to tell if it's own neurosis or the actual school dynamic.  And I would have liked to get to know Rachel a little more.  Seeing her only through Greg's eyes just didn't feel like enough.

When I read a blurb about the book I though, huh, another book about a teen girl with cancer.  But Me and Earl and The Fault in Our Stars couldn't be more different.  Both authors know how to bring the funny, and Andrews definitely brings a fresh story with a truly unique set of characters.  If you want to laugh (and not cry - TFIOS), this is a must read. 

Favorite quote(s): "Anyway, I lost all control when I got my ice cream, and I spent five minutes completely oblivious to the outside world because oh my God  was the ice cream delicious.  When I emerged, everything had changed, and also a lot of parts of my body were sticky.  For example: both ankles.  Earl had trouble dealing with this.  "Dude.  You gotta learn...not to that." (Page 150-151)

Read-alikes(ish) : Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film about The Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman (humor), The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (cancer)

Librarians sidenote:  This wouldn't be called a "clean-read."  Just a heads up when recommending... this does have quite a bit of foul language, some drug use, and more than one discussion about boobs.

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