Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Abrams, 304 pages
Up until senior year, Greg has maintained total social invisibility. He only has one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time—when not playing video games and avoiding Earl’s terrifying brothers— making movies, their own versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Greg would be the first one to tell you his movies are f*@$ing terrible, but he and Earl don’t make them for other people. Until Rachel.
Rachel has leukemia, and Greg’s mom gets the genius idea that Greg should befriend her. Against his better judgment and despite his extreme awkwardness, he does. When Rachel decides to stop treatment, Greg and Earl make her a movie, and Greg must abandon invisibility and make a stand.
I admit: I requested this book on Netgalley because of the cover. Don’t you think it’s so cute? This is the kind of cover that I would want to be printed as a poster and placed on my room. Or over my desk. The colors in this cover is enough to cheer me up, and I wouldn’t mind just looking at it without really knowing what’s inside.
Oh but wait, I actually read it. I don’t know about you, but the book’s synopsis reminded me of a John Green novel — and not just because The Fault in Our Stars had a girl with cancer in it1. Even the start of the book kind of reminded me a bit of Green, with the geeky guy and the “sidekick”, but that is really pretty much where the similarities end.
Here’s the thing about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: this book had a guy named Greg who’s content with just skimming and being under the radar and not making any real friends so he won’t have to be ridiculed for being a part of a group. The only “friend” he had is black-guy Earl, who’s had a difficult home life and whose default expression is “pissed”. And then there’s Rachel, the dying girl who Greg used to be linked to, and is linked to again because his mother asked him to visit her and keep her company. And there are movies, too – home movies, since Greg and Earl are big time movie fans and pseudo movie makers. Secret movie makers because they never let people watch any of them, until Rachel came along anyway.
Here’s another thing: this book doesn’t really have a real and solid plot that isn’t mentioned in the title. This book really feels more like a study on high school and how a kid deals with having a friend (who he won’t admit is really a friend) who’s battling cancer. And even then, Greg didn’t even admit it. He isn’t out to win any trophies for friendship, or any of his abilities for that matter. Greg is so down on himself and what he can do that it made my heart hurt. At one point in the book, I wanted to shake him and say that he better snap out of his “Oh I’m good for nothing so I’ll just make you laugh” type of thoughts. I guess there was just too much self-deprecating quips in the book that it got me a bit turned off — it’s either I’m just too positive, or his character is really just too negative. I’m not really sure.
That being said, though, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl really is hilarious, and it’s a good book to lift you out of a bad mood with all the quips and tangents and all the movie stuff (if you don’t think of the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph and stuff). I also loved Earl — maybe even more than I liked Greg — for all his tough-guy persona with a soft heart inside. I can imagine his “pissed” and “mega-pissed” expression, although I can’t exactly think of him as an actor. I think most of my LOL time happened when Earl was present, although he also showed that he had a more difficult life compared to Greg. Personally for me, if anyone had the right to complain about his life, it was Earl. Rachel also had more rights to complain, with the cancer and all. I liked Rachel’s quiet presence in the story, her snort-laugh and how she changed (but also not really changed) Greg’s life. I thought all the scenes with her was pretty poignant, and I liked how she really tried to help Greg even if he wasn’t willing to be helped that much. Their dynamic was pretty unusual, but it worked, and it really made the book true to its title.
Overall, this book is an enjoyable read, albeit not really as much as I expected. I guess I was used to having books make me feel so many things and think so many things that I imposed these expectations on Me and Earl and the Dying Girl too, when it’s really not that kind of book. I doubt this will be one of my favorites but in the grander scheme of things2, this book is one I’d recommend for anyone who’s looking for a
few lot of good laughs.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews will be out March 1.
My copy: ebook from NetGalley