Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

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I almost didn’t read this book.  Sorry to sound cynical, but another book about a teen dying of cancer?  How many do we need?

That’s what I thought this book would be.  It isn’t.  Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a book about a boy befriending a girl, but it not a book about cancer.  The illness is a subplot to a good story about a teen who just wants to coast through life, who hasn’t figured out yet who he is and who he wants to be.

And it is good.  It is well written and absolutely laugh out loud hilarious.  The humour is juvenile and smart, totally what you could picture a teen finding funny.  It never occurred to me (and really, why would it?), that I would burst out laughing at the word “f@&kbiscuit”.

Greg is 17 years old, and has spent his teen years flying under the radar.  He says hello to all the groups at school (jocks, goth, geek, etc), but does not fit in with any specific one.  He has one friend, Earl, a foul-mouthed kid who sees life how it really is, and accepts it.  Earl is awesome. They spend their time playing video games and trying not to get beaten up by Earl’s older brothers.  They fancy themselves filmmakers of a dark sort, and the descriptions of their attempts will leave you howling.  They are two fantastic characters written with great humour.

Rachel is a acquaintance from the past, with whom his mom forces him to reconnect.  She has leukemia, and to Greg’s surprise, the two do hit it off again, and form a friendship. His attempts at humour are actually appreciated, and their conversations are fun and awkward, as you would expect from two teens forced together by their mothers.  They like each other, so, of course, you expect them to find an all-consuming love.

Does not happen.  “She didn’t have meaningful things to say, and we definitely didn’t fall in love.  She seemed less pissed with me…”

Greg feels like he should be changed by Rachel’s illness, and maybe in the end he is, but what I like here is the honesty from author Jesse Andrews that sometimes life just is what it is.  Greg actually doesn’t always want to hang out with Rachel.  Even though he does like her, he wants to keep living his life the way he always has,  and just pretend everything is the same.

This book is good for all teens, and very relatable.  It is well written, the humour is hilarious and inappropriate, but some of the self-deprecating jokes go on a bit too long and lose their impact.  They become filler to an otherwise really good story.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is published by Amulet Books.

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