Ever read a book that made you laugh at loud on nearly every page, and you feel like an idiot reading it in public because people might think you’re a little insane? Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is one of those books. As the title suggests, this is a book about a teenager, his sort-of friend Earl, and a dying girl.
Greg Gaines is a senior in high school, and he’s managed to get through the past few years by blending in with all the cliques and never getting too close to anyone. This is no easy feat; it takes hard work and constant vigilance to melt with ease through the various social groups. On his first day of senior year, he realizes that maybe all that hard work will pay off and his final year will be awesome. That is, until he gets home from school and his mom drops the bomb: a girl he went to Hebrew school with has leukemia and Greg should really spend some time with her. Thus begins the story of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
I loved this book because, despite death and disease, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is insanely hilarious and appallingly disgusting. There were times where I couldn’t breathe while reading this book because I was laughing so hard.
Image from giphy.
For those of you who loved The Fault In Our Stars, Thirteen Reasons Why and Before I Die, this book may not sit well with you. The dying girl is a main character, but her death plays a very small part in the story. In fact, Greg is pretty irreverent about the whole thing, but I kind of liked that about him. He’s a teenager who is forced to spend time with a dying girl. He feels guilty about her situation, but is it so wrong for him to focus on his own life and his own friends (or lack thereof)?
I have to give props to the author, Jesse Andrews, for taking a tough, complicated subject like leukemia and writing a novel that doesn’t dictate how the reader should feel about it. There are definitely some stereotypes; this is teen fiction after all. There is no fourth wall here; Greg is writing this book for the reader, telling the story through direct conversations, bulleted lists and screenplays. Due to these forms, the other characters sometimes appear as caricatures, defined only by a few key traits. But that’s ok. Even as caricatures, the secondary characters still frame Greg’s story and experience.
At 295 pages, many taken up by large-text screenplays, this is a very quick read. The movie just hit theaters, and I’m eager to see how the story holds up in film form. Drop me a comment if you have read this book or are planning to see the movie. Let me know what you think!
Get your name on the holds list now for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl before it gets super long!