Book reviews

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews


Miss S, who is 14, recommended I read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. She loved the movie and liked the book.

The narrator is Greg Gaines, who is in his senior year at High School. The narration changes between Greg speaking straight to the reader, using dot points, presenting the story as a film script and occasionally, as essays of life instructions.

Greg’s strategy for surviving High School is to keep a low profile, be friends with everyone on the most superficial level possible, and not be pigeon-holed into belonging to any group. The only exception Greg makes to his friendship rule is with Earl, who he makes films with, and even then, Greg and Earl aren’t really friends.

When Greg’s mother insists he spend time with Rachel, the daughter of a family friend, Greg doesn’t want to. Rachel is dying of cancer. Although Greg resists, his mother forces the issue. Earl also spends time with Rachel and to Greg’s dismay, allows her to watch the films they have made.

Greg is a funny and truthful narrator, although he is in denial over how to handle his own emotions. Greg’s concern over his reputation prevents him from truly becoming friends with Rachel, although she accepts him as he is. She also loves the films he and Earl have made. I’ve heard a phrase that writers use about their ‘ideal readers,’ the person they seek to amuse, or frighten or instruct when they write, and I think Rachel was Greg’s ideal audience, both for his films and for his companionship.

Earl, although he comes from a poverty-stricken, drug-addled, dysfunctional family, has twenty times the compassion and humanity that Greg has.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl isn’t a romance. Greg and Rachel don’t fall in love, and there is no happy ending for Rachel. I’m not even sure that Greg grew up emotionally during the telling of the story.

Parts of this are hilarious. Greg’s take on girls, film-making, his family, school and life in general made me laugh out loud throughout the book. The book was educational for me. Miss S didn’t warn me about the swearing or the gross and horrible conversations teenagers have with each other, which might mean that this is how teenagers actually behave. Or maybe not. I can’t remember, I’m too old. The plot was a little light, too, but it was still quite entertaining.

Anyway, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was made into a movie which Miss S loved, so maybe I’ll watch it sometime. I expect Jesse Andrews will continue to write successful books for the Young Adult market too, although I probably won’t read them.





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