Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is an honest and humorous book, written by Jesse Andrews.
Greg Gains is a master of high school espionage, able to disappear into any social environment. Despite drifting from one cliche to another, he has only one true friend, Earl, with whom he spends time making movies with – their very own incomprehensible versions of cult classics. But when Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his friendship with Rachel, everything changes.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukaemia and when Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which ends up being both the Worst Film Ever Made, as well as the turning point in each of their lives. Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.
You may have heard the hype about this book. You may have seen other reviews raving about how great this book is, or maybe you’ve heard people talking about the movie. For me, the hype was definitely well-deserved. One of the biggest things I heard about this book before reading it was that it’s humorous, and that’s definitely true. It’s kind of strange that a book with a title with the words ‘dying girl’ in it would be funny, but it definitely is. I got one hell of a laugh out of this book. Well, maybe more than one laugh. Quite a lot more.
I loved how this book was different to all of the other ‘cancer books’ out there. This book didn’t really focus on cancer all that much and when it did, it wasn’t determined to make it touching and poignant. It was determined to make it real. I think there’s a lot of books out there that try to portray cancer realistically, but end up making it seem too sweet and too beautiful. Cancer isn’t beautiful. It ruins lives. Not only of the sufferer, but of their friends and family and everyone who knew them. This book didn’t try to drag meaning out of every glance, every word , pondering on everything unsaid, it simply told a story. And I think that by doing that, by not trying to make it bittersweet or moving, it did just that. Have you ever heard that less is more? Of course you have, you’re not an imbecile. With this book, that was definitely the case. We didn’t get much poetic language or perfectly presented prose with every word thought out carefully for maximum meaning, it was just honest and raw, and that was what made it wonderful.
There’s also another thing about the way this book was written that I really enjoyed. I loved how it wasn’t all paragraphs, if you know what I mean. Sometimes it was written like a script, lists, and sometimes it was even written in bullet points. I found this way of writing refreshing and it definitely kept me interested. It also made this book really stand out from every other book out there. It was different and unique in the way it was written, and I know I definitely won’t be forgetting this book any time soon.
I really loved Greg as both a character and a narrator. He was a fresh and original voice and he felt like a genuine teenage boy, not like some of those boys that are incredible swoon-worthy, but totally unrealistic. He was a little unlikeable at times, but that’s part of what made him so real. He was also one of the most funny people I’ve come across in books. His humour made what could have been a sad book otherwise something very light-hearted and entertaining. I loved Greg’s witty sarcasm and ridiculous humour. I also liked how he felt as though he should be moved by Rachel’s illness and he felt like he had to hang out with her. This again felt very real. But he does end up hanging out with Rachel and getting to know her again, because of his mum’s nagging. And isn’t that why teenagers do anything? I know that’s my reason.
Okay, we can’t get any further into this review without talking about Earl. Earl, apart from Greg, was the funniest character of the novel. I loved his strange sense of humour that was always a little weird, but never too obscene or anything. He was definitely an honest portrayal of a teenage boy and I loved getting to know him. I would read a whole book focussed around Earl, that’s how much I loved him. He made me laugh out loud in a quiet room full of people more times than I think is socially acceptable, but I don’t care. This book is hilarious, to say the least.
One thing that I felt could have been improved upon slightly was the strength of the plot. Sometimes it felt like there wasn’t a lot going on or that there wasn’t a lot of direction, however I was too wrapped up in all the humour to find that much of a issue. I also felt like I didn’t get to know that much about Rachel, which I guess is fair enough though. Seeing as this novel is told from Greg’s point of view, we only know what he knows or what he chooses to tell us. I suppose one of the things that Greg realises throughout this book is that he actually doesn’t know Rachel all that well. We didn’t spend all that much time with Rachel, but the time that was spent with her was cool. She was one of those people that didn’t care if you made a fool of yourself in front of them and they wouldn’t gossip about it later to anyone. She was a sweet girl and I liked getting to know her, even for the brief time that it was.
This book, if I’m being perfectly honest, isn’t a deep and life-changing read. It doesn’t contain any profound messages about illness or life, but it does tell you this: life isn’t always like the books. Life isn’t all perfectly-phrased soliloquies, touching gestures where beautiful people learn beautiful lessons. And yes, I may have gotten that last line from The Fault in Our Stars. But never mind that. Life is gritty and we all experience heartbreak and loss and tragedy. There’s no sugar-coating it. Not everything we do is meaningful or happens for a purpose, and I feel like this book reinforces that. As much as I love touching novels with bittersweet endings, I love this type of novel too, and I don’t think there’s enough of them out there. So if you want a poignant piece of prose, go read The Great Gatsby or something. But believe me, this novel is definitely something refreshing and honest, and also unlike anything I’ve read before.
Overall, I’d give Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews a score of 9.5 out of 10. It was heartwarming, but not in the way you’d expect, and it was funny in all the ways you’d expect. So I want to know, have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you seen the movie or will you be seeing it? I know I’ll definitely be seeing it. I’m already excited!
A huge thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!