Sunday, June 19, 2016

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl

Hi, all!

Time for another book review!

Today I'm taking a look at Jesse Andrews' Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl.


I didn't actually intend to write a review for this book. I originally bought it because I wanted to see the movie that recently came out (and, duh, I have to read the book first), but upon finishing this charming novel, I knew I had a few things to say about it that I wanted to share with you.

As the story goes, "Me" is the narrator, Greg Gaines. Greg introduces himself as one who tends not to connect with people in order to survive the hellish experience we call high school. He admits he's not your typical high schooler; he doesn't fit into any of the generic "groups" or cliques, and yet he manages to navigate them all while maintaining a low profile.

He also warns the reader that this book will probably be a piece of junk, but only because he is better at writing screenplays rather than novels. Why is he so much better at screenplays? Glad you asked, but according to him, he isn't. He and his wild, eccentric friend Earl (Enter "Earl"!) make home films. Some are recreations, others have original plots. However, Greg and Earl are convinced that "they suck" and no one else appreciates them, so they stay secret.

That is, until a childhood friend of Greg's is diagnosed with acute leukemia. Enter the "dying girl", Rachel. Greg's mother insists that he spend more time with Rachel in order to lighten up the remainder of her life, despite the awkward and complicated past they share. In a hilarious turn of events, Greg and Earl let Rachel see their closely guarded films, and things snowball from there.

This novel follows the relationship between these three characters (primarily Rachel and Greg) throughout the course of Rachel's treatment. But what makes this novel different from other books like The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is that this is not a glamorized story of a teenaged boy falling in love with a terminally ill girl. There isn't anything beautiful or romantic about being sick; there is little opportunity to take away a dramatic lesson about life and death in the midst of grief. In stark contrast, Jesse Andrews makes no attempt to let this story be anything but raw and brutally honest.

The author has written a protagonist who doesn't even want to be involved with Rachel and her illness, and is guilt-ridden for it. Reading into Greg's actions and feelings, it is apparent that Andrews has no desire to manipulate his audience's feelings for the sake of unnecessary drama. These characters are teenagers, kids, forced into a hideous situation. There is tragedy. There is loss. But the manner in which these characters acknowledge the pain and struggle, and handle it mentally and emotionally is extremely honest... And that's exactly what I found lacking in John Green's novel. Congratulations Jesse Andrews, you've filled the void.

All of the seriousness aside, this book is also surprisingly hilarious. I applaud the author's writing in this regard, since the humor doesn't feel forced. We're talking real, awkward, "I've-been-there-oh-god", prepubescent humor. Greg's wit and sarcasm is brilliantly paired with childish, boyish banter, giving the reader plenty of laughs and relatable moments, while reminding the reader of his age. Please note this humor may not be for everyone, but I am admittedly a child when it comes to immature jokes, so I got a kick out of it.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Andrews' utilization of second person, as it brings you closer to the story as Greg relates it. Another interesting device is the use of screenplay format in harmony with Greg's assertion that he is more efficient at writing dialogue in this manner. That and the bullet point lists occasionally included make for a unique and engaging read.

This novel is fairly fast-paced, and a short read, at that. If you're looking for a happy-feely book, I most definitely would not recommend Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl. However, if you're looking for a straightforward account about friendships in the midst of illness with refreshing humor, you may want to give this book a try.

Have you read this book? Seen the movie? Both? Talk about it in the comments, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!
Happy reading and baking,

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