Published by Abrams on May 26th 2015
Genres: Death & Dying, Friendship, Humorous Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
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.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was such an unusual and hilarious book. Told from the main character, Greg Gaines’ perspective, we are given an insight into Greg’s life at high school right from the time he learns that a girl he went to Hebrew School with when he was younger has been diagnosed with Leukaemia.
The thing I loved most about this book was how quick and easy it is to read: short chapters consisting of various different forms of media such as narrative, transcripts and interviews. I love books like this – I always power through them as I enjoy reading them so much. The language in this was also great – smart, quick-witted and hilarious.
I enjoyed the way that Jesse Andrews constructed his characters. Through Greg’s perspective we are able to gain quite an insight to all 3 of the main characters, and I really loved all of them. Greg is a nice enough guy, just trying to finish high school, who is really only friends with Earl as they have a shared love of film. They can happily spend hours watching, chatting about and then recreating terrible B-Grade films (I learnt about some pretty amazingly terrible films from this book). They are both pretty normal guys, who are neither popular or unpopular at school; with Greg coming from a standard middle-class family, Earl from a poorer, dysfunctional family. Rachel is a lovely character, whom I really liked. She would happily sit and listen to Greg prattle on as he tried to entertain her and come back with very honest, sometimes blunt, but sweet remarks. Greg’s parents were also quite funny and I enjoyed Greg’s interactions with them.
I didn’t know too much about this book going into it, which is good as I often research a book quite a bit beforehand. But this was a Christmas present and I kind of just jumped straight into it. This book is getting a lot of comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars which is both good and bad. I think it’s good as I did enjoy TFIOS and it’s on a similar sort of reading level – however, TFIOS is much deeper. That isn’t to say that Me and Earl is light and silly, but it was hilarious! I laughed out loud at several points in this book and marked several pages that I just found to be spectacularly hilarious so that I could easily re-read those sections. However, I also feel that this book is somewhat more relatable than TFIOS. Greg is just an average high schooler getting by and deals with the news of an old friend being diagnosed with cancer in a way you would expect. He’s not too sure how to handle it, how to talk to Rachel and how to try and help her through her chemo.
Right from the beginning we are told that this is not a love story, nothing truly heroic or courageous is done by Greg, and we are told of regularly about the film that he and Earl made for Rachel – the lead up to which is fun, entertaining and humorous.
I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more from Jesse Andrews.