Monday, October 28, 2013

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

4.5 Stars

Greg has managed to make it to his senior year by being an acquaintance to all and a friend to none one.  When you’re a rodent-faced, chubby kid growing up in a not-so-great area and attend a high school of cliques that run the gamut of nerd to criminal, it’s probably best to just blend in so you never get singled out.  His only friend has always been Earl – a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, vertically challenged, roundhouse-kicking kid from a broken home, who has pretty much raised himself in a house filled with drug dealing, gangbanging brothers.  After Greg decided to give up on having other friends (or ever getting a girl), he and Earl spent all their free time making their own versions of their favorite movies.  That is, until Greg’s mother tells him he has to rekindle a friendship with Rachel, a girl from his Hebrew classes ages ago, who is now battling leukemia.  Begrudgingly following his mother’s demand request, Greg (and Earl) do as they are told, eventually letting Rachel in on their secret and sharing their movies with her.  Rachel’s dying wish of her new two friends is for them to make a new movie for her.  Unfortunately, said movie ends up being the Worst Film Ever Made and Greg finds himself in the spotlight he has hidden from all his life.

How can I even describe how much I liked this quirky little novel.  After realizing he has made the “Worst Film Ever Made”, Greg has taken to paper to write his tale rather than put it on film.  His self-deprecation (i.e., “I can’t believe you’re still reading this.  You should smack yourself in the face a couple of times right now just to complete the outstandingly stupid experience that is this book”) and complete honesty about being an awkward teenager (“He has just gotten home from school and is trying to read “A Tale of Two Cities” for class, but it is difficult for him to maintain focus, because inside his pants he has AN INEXPLICABLE BONER”) made me have a “you had me at hello moment”.  I am always reeled right in by the loveable loser.  (And cover art.  God am I a cheap date for a good cover.) 

Although nearly 100% certain I would like this book right from the get-go, I never imagined what would happen when Earl entered my life.  Earl is one of my favorite characters of the entire year.  He gives you zero time to pity the poverty and drugs he has been raised around – instead he is just a constant ball of hilarity and brilliance and I remain smitten.

If you’re concerned about this being a replay of “A Fault In Our Stars” and turning into a huge boo-bag because you’re reading a book that flat out tells you it’s about a dying girl, have no fear.  Yes, there is a dying girl, but she is really more of an accessory to the story.  Andrews doesn’t let you in Rachel’s life so far as to rip your heart out at her suffering.  He just gives you enough info to get you a little misty.

If you’re a fan of John Green or Matthew Quick or Stephen Chbosky, you should not be disappointed with Jesse Andrews.  I can’t wait for him to write more.

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