Title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Author: Jesse Andrews
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 295 pages
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.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.
I began this book due to the large amount of BookTubers that were raving about it. Despite its 3.6 star review on GoodReads, the praise of reviewers on BookTube that I trusted persuaded me to purchase the contemporary novel that is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. This book was funny. It made me laugh out loud, and despite some of the humor being more obnoxious than the kind that I usually enjoy, I laughed anyways. As the title points out, this story contains a girl that’s dying, but the book doesn’t revolve around her sickness. It’s a sort of coming of age novel, and it wasn’t really anything that I expected- it surprised me.
Packaging: 5/5 Stars. The packaging of this book is easily one of my all time favorite book covers. Not only is it absolutely beautiful and screams contemporary, the quality of it has an interesting feel- not exactly paper. The book cover drew me to it right away, and that is exactly what a book’s packaging should do.
Writing Style: 3.5/5 Stars. I definitely enjoyed the writing style of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The protagonist, Greg’s, self degradation throughout his narration of the story was definitely amusing, if not a bit tiring at times. His sense of humor, though maybe not necessarily what one would call witty, was still funny, and I feel he did a great job of capturing the honesty of a teenager who has been placed in such a situation. The writing definitely grew crude at times, and could become overly obnoxious, but it’s a part of who our protagonist is. We can see how hard Greg tries throughout the book through the dialogue and writing, and you can’t dislike him for it. Some of my favorite scenes occur with his mother- the situations and dialogue are hilarious, and in some cases, moving.
Characters: 3.5/5 Stars. When I began reading, although he was amusing, I was expecting to view Greg as an obnoxious, inconsiderate and self absorbed teenage boy- which he was. However, it was the way that the character was delivered that didn’t necessarily make him unlikeable. He was written with the right intentions, and he didn’t mean to mess up when he did. Greg simply didn’t know how to act in so many of these situations, and occasionally got to be irrational, like any other human being would have been in the circumstances. As for Earl, the good acquaintance of Greg, I definitely didn’t expect to like him as much as I did, considering his crude introduction in the book. Funnily enough, Earl is my favorite character in the book. Earl, despite his demeanor and home situations, has an odd depth to his understanding of the circumstances around him that Greg lacks. Him and Greg definitely had an interesting friendship, and their escapades as well as self directed films invoked great amusement. As for the dying girl, Rachel, I saw her through Greg’s eyes, but I understood her infinitely more than he did. Where he got frustrated with her decisions, I simply sat fighting the tears, because I saw her. The fact that the author was able to have the reader understand a character when everything that the protagonist expresses says otherwise really tells a lot about his skills when penning a character.
Plot: 4/5 Stars. I began this book expecting there to be a clear cut plot surrounding the fact that the protagonist’s friend is dying of leukemia- however, the book is less about someone who is dying from a terminal disease than one about a protagonist who is affected by someone who is dying from a terminal disease. There wasn’t exactly a clear cookie cutter plot. Greg goes through many things, some concerning Rachel, some concerning school, and some concerning Earl. It’s simply the presence of Rachel in his life that weighs him down, and weighs everything else down as well. So while there isn’t a clear plot, at the same time it is. This plot, although not exactly one that stands out, is still strong.
Overall: 3.5/5 Stars. I think the one thing that struck me about this book was its honesty. Our main character didn’t manage to create a film that was beautiful enough to bring an entire audience to tears, but instead tried but failed because he couldn’t understand. He wasn’t filled with the sudden need to make Rachel’s life worthwhile due to her terminal illness, but instead found himself growing exhausted because of it. He was crude, at times, and inconsiderate, and not necessarily sensitive- the epitome of many teenage boys if they were put into the same situation. He never fell in love with this girl, and was never filled with the angst that they rekindled their friendship only when she was about to die. Jesse Andrews tells this tale with honesty, as well as hilarity. This book contains amusing situations, interesting friendship dynamics, and, although it is obviously not meant to be conveyed in this manner, left me feeling strangely touched.