Author: Jesse Andrews
Publication Date: 3/1/12
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Blurb (GR): 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.
Okay, if I would've known that this book was set in Pittsburgh, I would've read it on release day. As it turns out, while this author was in high school, presumably being hilarious, I was just down the street, playing badminton in my Catholic school uniform during free period. I had to investigate a bit further, so I checked my facebook and found that my friend Jake (who now has a luscious ponytail and who I once learned to waltz with) is facebook friends with Jesse Andrews. (like that even means anything in this day and age. I think I'm facebook friends with some people I'd be more than happy never to see again in my lifetime) Here's what went down:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is about Greg Gaines, a self-depracting, chubby teenage "surprise Jew" (because his name doesn't give it away) who is fringe friends with everybody but true friends with nobody, except for maybe Earl, with whom he makes movies that only the two of them watch. Told in first person, Greg's story begins when his mother informs him that Rachel, a girl he's known for years and once "dated" has been diagnosed with leukemia and he must go over to hang out with her. What follows is awkwardness, funny jokes, and eventually actual friendship. The characters of Greg and Earl kept me entertained the entire time, and if the sense of humor in the book clicks with yours, you'll plow through it in two hours and love the experience. I'd love to see this book adapted as a film but the one thing holding it back a bit for me is Greg's self-deprecation. In the latter portion of the book, I started to get sick of Greg's constant whining about how lame and unfunny he is and his tryhard overcompensating drama got old as well, but I was ecstatic to see Earl and Rachel there to temper him out. In movie form, it might be too much for me to watch Greg try to saturate everything with humor.
The ending made my heart break a bit, especially just the realistic nature of friendships and growing up. It is so easy to form friendships in high school when most of us don't have a lot to worry about and we are forced to spend a large amount of time together. Especially when you go to high school in a city, surrounded by tons of other schools but also all sorts of things to do. When I saw Sherman Alexie at a book event the other day, he spoke about the sequel he is writing to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The "sequel" is actually going to be roughly the same time period, as told from the perspective of Junior's friend Rowdy, whom Alexie gets asked about all the time. The point of bringing this up is that Alexie said that the first line of the book is something like, "Everyone always talks about the ones who leave. No one ever talks about the ones who get left behind." I basically read Me and Earl right after I went to the event and I couldn't/can't stop thinking about how much I'd love to hear from Earl's point of view. Greg mentions Earl's intelligence and there are several points during the novel where I saw glimpses of just how astute and clever Earl truly is, and it was a bit soul crushing to me to see how he was living his life, however realistic it is. (I think this is especially so considering I know of people like him and and could absolutely visualize all the settings, houses, personalities that Andrews describes so well) So Jesse Andrews, start working on Me and Someone and the Something Else from Earl's POV, mmmkay?
Random notes: This cover kicks ass; I want to go to Pittsburgh right now.