High school senior Greg Gaines has mastered the art of high school – well, socially, that is. To make it through high school, his plan is to remain almost invisible, skirting around the edges of each clique. He never joins a clique, but at the same time is not clique-less – that’s practically begging to be made fun of. His rules are simple: 1) Infiltration of each group must remain unobserved by all others, 2) Never submerge too deeply into one group, and 3) Keep a low profile at almost all times. Outside of school, he hangs out with his only sort-of friend, Earl. Together, they watch films, play video games, and create their own low (very low) -budget films. And then, only eight hours into his first day of senior year, Greg’s mom ruins everything; she forces him to hang out with Rachel, a girl who was just diagnosed with cancer. Thus ensues the downfall of Greg’s entire life.
Alright, I’ll go ahead and admit it: I read this book because I saw there was a movie coming out. I actually watched the trailer a few months ago and decided I would read the book first. So here I am, finally getting around to it. I’m not one of the cool kids who read this before it was popular. I’m pretty much just jumping on the bandwagon, here. Unfortunately, I liked this book a lot less than I thought I would. Many of my bookish friends encouraged me to read it, and I was a bit let down.
First, though, let’s discuss the good aspects of the novel. I love the title – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I have a slight obsession with rhymes. I also loved how Andrews portrayed all the characters, even the ones I disliked. They all had very distinct, unique personalities that made them stand out from each other and gave each of the characters their own depth and identity. I probably liked Earl the most, because he made me laugh and I could just hear his voice in my head, mannerisms and inflections and all. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Greg – he was kind of an asshat, even though I understood his thought process a lot of the time. He was pretty immature, too.
The thing I loved most about the novel was it’s brutal honesty. Jesse Andrews has perfectly and accurately depicted high school in a way that is so horrible and honest that it made me cringe with acceptance. High school is pretty much, more or less, exactly the way he has Greg describe it. Not only that, but he knows exactly how high schoolers think and act. A lot of people complained about the crudeness of the novel, but I loved that aspect. I thought Earl’s Gross-Out Mode moments were absolutely hilarious. And I loved the way he cussed like a sailor. Seriously, the author was spot-on.
What I didn’t like about the novel was that it was just…well, slightly boring. There wasn’t a whole lot of plot to it. Yes, okay, the plot is there’s a dying girl and Greg is forced to hang out with her and blah blah blah, but what I’m saying is, not much else happens. There are a few interesting events, but for the most part, it’s just about a weird high school boy’s mundane life. I realize that was kind of the point, and even Greg himself mentions in the book how boring and uneventful his life is, but I wanted a little more out of it.
The ending reminded me a little of The Spectacular Now, so I thought that was interesting. The book is written in the perspective of Greg, and he makes it clear that he’s the one writing the book, and you find out why he’s writing the book at the end.
If you’re looking for a tear-jerking romance story about star-crossed lovers, please instead pick up The Fault in Our Stars or any of the other numerous love stories that feature Cancer as a main character. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not that kind of book. It will make you laugh out loud and shake your head. There is no romance. No one falls in love. It’s simply a story about two guys who make films and try to cheer up a poor girl dying of cancer.
Favorite Quote: “One thing I’ve learned about people is that the easiest way to get them to like you is to shut up and let them do the talking.”