Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
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.
There are numerous “cancer books” and a lot of them focus on the fighting cancer bit and how strong and inspiring that is. I really liked that Andrews didn’t do that. He didn’t turn Rachel into a martyr because of her illness. Actually, I’m hesitant to even call Me and Earl and the Dying Girl a cancer book, because it doesn’t focus on the cancer, which was actually pretty great.
What the book does focus on is Greg’s stupid. There’s quite a lot of stupid. Some of it adds to Greg’s character, like his awkwardness and inability to have a conversation, but a lot of it, like his constant insistence that his book sucks, is just annoying. It’s like when people insist something they’ve made is awful just so people will say it isn’t.
Andrews’ book isn’t bad, and it definitely had some good points. They just got weighed down by the bad. The characters were strong, although a wee bit overdone. A lot of them seemed off to me, actually, especially Greg. I laughed (a little too loudly) a few times, but it didn’t really impress me. For one thing, a lot of the humor is kind of offensive and the jokes that actually were funny were of the variety that makes you question your sense of humor.
The short version: I loved Andrews’ point that shit happens and people die and it sucks but not everybody (actually, most people) don’t take a lesson away from that. But a lot of the humor fell flat with me and a good amount of the story grated on my nerves.
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