Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying GirlAuthor: Jesse Andrews
Published: March 1st 2012
Publisher: Abrams
Hardcover, 296 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a very strange book indeed. I’m sure some of you read the blurb and thought: Not another cancer book! Really, are books about teens with cancer the new black?! Yeah, I thought so too. It turns out that this book has very little to do with cancer. It has more to do with several other, completely unrelated things like filmmaking, high school social structure, odd friendships and nagging parents. It’s certainly not a sob story. The only tears I’d shed while reading it were caused by laughter.

My point is this: This book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons, or Little-Known Facts About Love, or sappy tear-jerking Moments When We Knew We Had Left Our Childhood Behind For Good or whatever. And, unlike most books in which a girl gets cancer, there are definitely no sugary paradoxical single-sentence-paragraphs that you’re supposed to think are deep because they’re in italics.

This is where I would normally write a lengthy plot summary, but I’m afraid my usual reviewing patterns simply won’t work for this book. Greg Gaines is a normal, awkward teenage boy who prides himself in the fact that he doesn’t belong to any of the usual groups in high school, but is on friendly terms with everyone. He only has one real friend, his complete opposite, Earl. When a girl from his school gets leukemia, Greg’s mother makes Greg spend time with her, and as much as he doesn’t want to, he’s too afraid of his mother to say no.

Greg Gaines, our main character, assumed the role of the author, which led to a lot of self-deprecating humor (and made me think that he was also, at least partly, an author surrogate). Although I’ll be the first to admit that his observations about his own writing were often hilarious, I did feel that the whole thing was overdone at times. A good joke can only be good for so long before it becomes downright annoying. Here’s just one example:

And that’s part of the backstory for me and Earl. It’ll probably be relevant later, although who really knows. 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.

That is just one example in which an invisible line was crossed and Greg’s story stopped being funny and became eye-roll inducing. That doesn’t mean, however, that this book didn’t have incredibly funny moments. It is, after all, based almost entirely on humor, and the kind of humor that actually worked for me most of the time. It is what kept me reading even after I realized that there isn’t an actual plot to speak of. The fact that it took me a while to even notice says enough about the kind of narrative we’re dealing with here.

I honestly think that I’m not the intended audience for this book, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. In many ways, it provides a realistic insight into a teenage boy’s mind, and that’s something we (I) don’t see enough of. Do I think you should read this book? Definitely. It’s not a book that you’ll read compulsively, so it’s best to pick it up when you’re otherwise preoccupied. It’s one of those books you can abandon for a while and go back to whenever you feel like it. There are times when that’s exactly what I’m looking for: a light, fun read that will allow me to focus on other, more important things.


  1. A funny book? Bring it on! :) I do enjoy humour in my stories, and this sounds like a lovely light read. You can also get that from the cover, I think, despite knowing it's about cancer.

    I'm glad you enjoyed it, Maja. :)

  2. Yeah! I have this book and a great funny book is just what I need. I can't wait to read it now. The mind of a teenage boy is,dangerous unchanrtered terrain. Should be fun!
    I see you are reading Pure Maja, I am anxious to hear your thoughts on that one to see if we agree.

  3. You don't see many books from the male perspective..and funny tears...great review... i might pick this one up

  4. You're right that male-narrated YA and funny books have a special place in the YA realms. I specifically seek out some of both types of books so it is exciting to me that this one tics both boxes. I'm glad to hear it isn't just another kid-with-a-sickness book. Is it as funny as Suicide Notes? That's one of the ones I think of when the humor is darker and self-deprecating.

  5. Not really. It's a different kind of humor, more meaningless, I'd say. In Suicide Notes, the humor has a certain weight and here it doesn't.

    But I thought of you a lot while reading this, especially when he was describing the social structure in his high school, the various groups and so on. It seemed like something you'd really enjoy.

  6. I see what you mean about "cancer books" being the new black. There does seem to be quite a few of them lately, though I've heard mostly good things.

    I've only read a review or two of this book, so I'm going to keep looking around before I commit to reading it or not. Still, it was nice to hear your thoughts!

  7. Pure humor is needed to break from the constant, constand serious reading (which I don't really do, but anyway!) I think I might really enjoy this one, though I agree that the self-deprecating can get a little bit over the top. Specially if there are many instances like that example you gave us - definitely eye-rolling territory. But it might still be worth a try!

    Thanks for sharing! It's a great review!

    Ron @ Stories of my life

  8. Ohhhh, Maja!! You make me smile so much! x) <3 I have to admit that I kind of have a soft spot for sweet books about cancer, but I think that a sweet book about cancer that can bring a big goofy grin to your face is one that I HAVE to pick up! From that small excerpt you included, I just KNOW I'm going to have a blast while reading this book!

    Amazing review, Maja! I can't wait to pick this one up now too! :)

  9. The most awesomesauce book title!! haha. I already read your lovely review on GR but thought I'd say it again! :D I don't think I've ever read a book about cancer. Only one of Nicholas Sparks that I had watched the movie already.


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