Sunday, March 6, 2016

Review: Me and Earl and The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Title: Me and Earl and The Dying Girl                              
Author: Jesse Andrews
Publication: March 1st 2012, Harry N. Abrams
Format: Hardbound, 295 pages             
Source: Borrowed from Eriele of This Is Not Your Book Blog                       
Order it on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | The Book Depository | Kobo | National Book Store / Fully Booked (PH)


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.


Death is inevitable. That is what this book's about really and of course the aggressiveness of the voice in this novel that is Greg Gaines. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is a fascinating read.

The story is that Greg Gaines doesn't believe in making strong, soon to be broken friendships. He believes that friendships are what can ruin a person and that making yourself non-existent and somehow surviving the stresses of high school is what's important and also making brief acquaintances, the "Hi then leave" kind. He loves films and so does his "co-worker" Earl Jackson. Then one day, his Mom forces him into rekindling his friendship with Rachel Kushner, who is apparently diagnosed with leukemia and might die. In Greg fashion, he's too self-conscious and aware and doesn't know what to do and as if life is slowly unfolding in front of his eyes, does it also slowly creep up on him too.

This book might not be for everyone. It deals with themes of death and how you can actually be an apathetic jerk about it. Again, Greg is let's say, emotionally in-tune, at least in his head. He likes to make jokes and make everyone happy but really, he has no idea what he's doing. And that's why he can be easily misunderstood by the reader. He narrates about his life and his encounter with Rachel and how he tries to make her feel better while also discussing his films, family, his crush on Madison and how he wants to be cradled in her boobs and how he doesn't want to show his films with Earl to anyone. Greg is selfish. That was one thing I learned but he also became the character of thought for me that sometimes we just don't know where to place ourselves when we face something such as death.

While writing his "book", Greg bumped into issues about why this story isn't happy or why things are going to make an unfortunate turn. Because it's the truth. And you know what, it is. Not all of us are emphatic and pretty much involved, say, a friend dies. We try to find outlets in order to somehow move towards a different thought, yet what happens is that no matter what, the thought of that one person keeps coming back, like a haunting memory. Greg deals with it through humor but while reading the book, and even though Greg's words and tone were polarizing, my heart was hurting. 

Now, enough about Greg let's talk about the other characters, Earl and Rachel. Earl Jackson is rude and by rude I mean the type of friend that's frank and might hurt your feelings but he's the friend that actually cares for you and he's the friend who understands everything that's going on. I love Earl. If anything, I wanted more of him. Of course his language and some of his views are a bit tilted but I suppose that's what makes Earl, Earl. He's not afraid to speak his mind or to comment on something he strongly disagrees with. I would love to have a friend like Earl, although I think I'd prefer an Earl as a he of course. HAHA! Now Rachel, she's just the light that brings joy to the room and I know this might seem a little insensitive, I actually think in many moments, Rachel is the one who made me smile and realize many things about myself, kinda like what happened with Greg. She's sweet, she's happy. And of course, she's dying. She retains some of her personality but we do see a turn in it while she's going through all that pain. She tries hard to laugh and to make people she cares about, happy and fulfilled. And although she chose to die, Rachel is still brave and a true friend. Okay, I'm sorry. I'm writing a eulogy. Now someone, hold me.

Me and Earl and The Dying Girl tries to be humorous while bringing in all the hints that it's not gonna be a happy ending. Like with a good friend who is dying, we try to give them a moment in the sun, to have fun because we know that there's no turning back. That's what happened in this novel. We get the shreds of happiness and in the end, it doesn't make us at all happy. 

But the book does leave you with a hopefulness and that's what I love about novels that deal with death and the realness of it. It's not scared to give it but it also cushions you with the chance at making things better. Greg is given that chance and by a person who genuinely cared for him: Rachel. *weeps in a corner*

The writing is superb, I would have to say. It genuinely felt like I was speaking to a teenager or was just a few seats away from these people talking. And the fact that the style and structure is all unique, makes it a lot more special. I love the Greg and Earl films. They were a treat to read. I guess because Jesse Andrews writes this as Greg Gaines that everything from the script to the lists to the bullets feel a lot like Greg, so it definitely worked and it definitely made it a tad more special.

Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, is again not for everyone. It deals with a subject matter we all wish we could avoid but it sways into the waves of emotion and realness that you just sit there, contemplate everything and see it for what it truly is. And though scary, it's a situation anyone, one day will have to face.

P.S. Do watch the film. It's fantastic.
About The Author:

Jesse Andrews’s debut novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, was published to critical acclaim and starred reviews. His adaptation of the book for the big screen won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Jesse is also a musician and screenwriter. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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