Title: Me and Earl and The Dying Girl (2013)
Author: Jesse Andrews
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Review: Greg Gaines (slightly overweight, really kind of nerdy) has only one friend—Earl, an African-American teenage boy who chain-smokes and plays video games—and one giant hobby: filmmaking. When Rachel, Greg’s childhood friend, is diagnosed with leukaemia, Greg’s mother talks him into rekindling their friendship.
This book… well, this book is something special. I’m typically fond of YA novels with male main protagonists because it’s quite rare, and I really enjoyed Greg’s voice here. He’s utterly hilarious, refreshingly honest, sometimes self-depreciating, and occasionally tactless like any other (normal) teenage boy. Living in his head and seeing through his eyes, for however short it was for me, were really quite an enjoyable experience.
“If after reading this book you come to my home and brutally murder me, I do not blame you.”
This is a book with characters I instantly adored the moment I met them, from Earl, Rachel, Greg’s mother, Rachel’s mother, Madison, their high school teachers… Greg tells this story not only in prose and paragraphs, but also in script, headlines, lists, dialogues and text messages, and I love the diversity of it. From chapter to chapter, this book kept surprising me, taking me on a wildly entertaining and (literally) laugh-out-loud funny journey. It’s basically a long conversation with a teenage boy whose thoughts you find amusing.
“Girls like good-looking guys, and I am not very good-looking. In fact, I sort of look like a pudding.”
For a book with a potentially depressing title, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is certainly light-hearted. This is a book with cancer, but this is not a book about cancer, if that makes sense. Were there parts that moved me? Certainly, but I was rather more impressed by how candidly Greg was telling the story. Is there a lesson to be learned? Not necessarily, I didn’t really walk away thinking my eyes have been opened… only that I was highly entertained.
“I entered Excessive Modesty Mode. Nothing is stupider and more ineffective than Excessive Modesty Mode. It is a mode in which you show that you’re modest by arguing with someone who is trying to compliment you. Essentially, you are going out of your way to try to convince someone that you’re a jerk.”
I also really appreciated that Andrews didn’t try to force his readers to feel grief and loss through his characters. When the inevitable end comes, Greg doesn’t pretend that he learned something from what happened, which makes it all the more realistic to me. See, the thing is, life sucks. Sometimes people leave us before their time, and sometimes we don’t learn anything from it… and that’s all right. That’s just life.
Me and Earl and The Dying Girl certainly doesn’t wax poetic about the meaning of life (or death), but it doesn’t pretend to be what it isn’t. Instead it’s honest, funny, entertaining, and really quite memorable.