Book Review: Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

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Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Greg Gaines’ major talent is blending in. In fact, he’s made it a point for his whole high school career to not make any friends or enemies, but to surf through the different cliques and groups without drawing attention to himself. In private however, he wants to be a filmmaker. He and his unlikely friend Earl, spend their spare time remaking the movies they love. When his mother insists he befriends his classmate who is dying of cancer, his separate lives collide in a spectacular fashion.

You could call Andrews’ book the antidote to A Fault in our Stars because though it explores similar subject matter (kids with cancer) it not a romance. Instead, it is the slightly neurotic, definitely hilarious perspective of a teenage boy who doesn’t know how to deal with the situation.

I really liked that there was no big epiphanies, or sappy falling in love moments (not to say I didn’t love John Green’s novel- I did. This one is just very different, that’s all.)

There was a whole lot of awkward, funny moments and unreliable narrating. You got a good sense of the high school landscape through Greg’s perspective, as well as a much clearer view of Earl, an angry, vertically challenged teen from a dysfunctional family on the other side of the tracks from Greg. And yet despite all the external disadvantages Earl must face, he’s the one with the more mature reactions, who takes control and knows what to do.

As for the dying girl, Rachel Kushner, we don’t get a good sense of her. She laughs at Greg’s jokes. She likes his movies. But really she is sick and hardly there. Partly it is because we are seeing her through Greg’s lenses- and his are coloured by the need to make her laugh. In short, he makes it all about him.

Greg is just a normal boy. He hardly knows how to deal with high school let alone the death of a friend. But he muddles through it if not with grace, then with an earnest and valiant attempt at honesty.

This book made me laugh at loud in several places, which is a rare occurrence. There are no major epiphanies, no big, life-changing moments. But Greg’s life does end up changed and he does learn something, if not in an anvil dropped on the head kind of way, in the way most of us learn – by trial and a whole crap load of error.

 

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