Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

January 20, 2016
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Book Cover Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jesse Andrews
Fiction
Amulet Books
March 1st, 2012
Audiobook
295 pages; 6 hours 9 minutes
Library

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.

(via Goodreads)

 

If after reading this book you come to my home and brutally murder me, I do not blame you. – Greg Gaines

Greg Gaines has an overbearing Jewish mother and an affinity for avoiding real friendships. He finds the lack of deep social connections essential for surviving high school and his own lack of self-esteem. However, when his “former girlfriend” (read: he didn’t realize everyone thought they were dating until it was too late) is diagnosed with leukemia, Greg’s mother guilts him into spending more time with her. Earl, the only person Greg considers a friend also starts pushing Greg, and suddenly, Greg has to learn what having a real connection with someone is like… all while going through the most emotionally traumatizing period of his life.

One thing I’ve learned about people is that the easiest way to get them to like you is to shut up and let them do the talking. – Greg Gaines

Greg is snarky and self-deprecating. He is writing a book about his experience during a single year: Senior year of high school. What makes Greg unique is that he has no ambition, but is incredibly observant. At first, his manner is a bit jarring. This is counter to most YA protagonists who want more out of life. But eventually, you realize Greg is just honest. He is a clueless high school student who doesn’t have a clue what he wants out of life. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s refreshing. Plus, his humor is on point. Never have I ever found so many quotable lines in a single book.

It’s like when a kitten tries to bite something to death. The kitten clearly has the cold-blooded murderous instinct of a predator, but at the same time, it’s the cute kitten, and all you want to do is stuff it in a shoebox and shoot a video of it for grandmas to watch on YouTube. – Greg Gaines

Rachel’s cancer is clearly a background element to the story of Greg’s developing life. This is surprising to those who expect a “cancer book”. I really enjoyed reading The Fault in Our Stars, but I felt like the messages were too overt about how beautiful life/death is and explaining how a person can gain a new outlook or fall in love or whatnot just from being close to someone you know will die. In real life, people are too self-centered. Most people don’t know how to interact with someone who has a terminal illness. Andrews recognizes this, and his characters are honest about how they experience Rachel’s illness. We get to witness how Greg, Earl, and other recurring characters are dealing with this situation – and everyone experiences it differently.

I’m not really putting this very well. My point is this: This book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons, or Little-Known Fats About Love, or sappy tear-jerking Moments When We Knew We Had Left Our Childhood Behind for Good, or whatever. -Greg Gaines

It’s powerful watching Greg grow. He talks about how he should be moved my Rachel’s illness, and how he feels like he should want to hang out with her– but he doesn’t. He doesn’t really want to help or get involved. His reaction is something many can relate to: I wish I could ignore the whole situation. However, you can’t just willfully ignore a situation like that and expect it not to affect you. For example, Greg’s teachers all notice this is taking a toll on him. They let him know they are here to support Greg as he suffers through this ordeal with his girlfriend. Greg immediately dismisses this. So what if his homework has been late? It’s definitely not about Rachel. Greg’s experience with Rachel pushes him so subtly throughout that he goes from a character who didn’t seem like he cared to one who was obsessed with helping a friend.

This book probably makes it seem like I hate myself and everything I do. But that’s totally not true. I mostly just hate every person I’ve never been. I’m actually fine with myself right now – Greg Gaines

Greg is also incredibly relatable. Truer words were never spoken by a high school student. Life is changing so quickly and everything seems to be converging all at once in high school. Even without one of your friends dying. High school is about shedding skins and building who you are. Greg owns that. His incredible powers of observation (probably cultivated from his film-making) have helped him learn and grow from all these situations.

There are a ton of posters that were made for the movie. Most are hilarious.

There are a ton of posters that were made for the movie. Most are hilarious.

This story also strongly affected me because I listened to the audiobook. What makes his audiobook unique is that it’s narrated by the actors who play these characters in the film. Thomas Mann (Greg) and RJ Cyler (Earl) already thoroughly understand these characters from their experience on set. Also, when Thomas Mann is impersonating the other characters, you can hear the actors he worked with in his voice. For example, Molly Shannon plays Denise in the film. Mann’s depiction of Denise’s “Grrrrreeeeg.” is a spot on impersonation of Molly Shannon. I felt like Greg and Earl and Rachel were all real. Acting is magic.

Now. I am definitely a crier. I rarely cry from books. I often tear up, but rarely cry. Hence my lack of fear about listening to audiobooks in my car. Yet, Mann’s depiction of Greg’s grief as he watched Rachel dying was so moving that I had to pull over. Yup. I sat on the side of the road and balled like a baby along with Thomas Mann. I’m such an adult.

When you convert a good book to a film, stupid things happen. – Greg Gaines

Never have a read a book, or listening to an audiobook, before and thought to myself, “Huh. I should probably see the film version of this.” Well. There is the first for everything. Now I want to see the film. I know it won’t be as good as the book, but I will probably still love it.

This book, as you can tell, really spoke to me. I even found another great piece of life advice in it:

Me and Earl Life Advice

Go. Find this book. Read it.

5 Stars

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