Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

12700353Greg 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.

Rating: 3/5

Loved the concept, loathed the writing style.

As many people have said, this is kind of the anti-The Fault In Our Stars novel. And while I did enjoy that book, I also appreciated this author’s completely irreverent take on the sick-kid trope – the utter lack of pretentiousness, of profound life lessons – simply an acceptance that shit happens, and it’s sad, and that’s life.

I’m not really putting this very well. 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. Do you know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about sentences like this:

‘The cancer had taken her eyeballs, yet she saw the world with more clarity than ever before.’

However, the writing style really grated on my nerves – the teenage-boyness of it all, and the constant going back and forth in telling the story. As a personal preference, I like my narration nice and tidy.

Our main character, Greg, is sweet but annoying as hell. Again, I suppose that’s characteristic of many teenage boys. Despite this, he makes some astute observations, and he tries really hard, which I totally admired him for.

If you can get over the writing style, then I think many of you will enjoy the refreshing take on the teen-dying-of-cancer trope. More than that, the book also covers the complicated navigation of high school social hierarchies, class differences and self-image issues, in a way that felt really authentic.


8 thoughts on “Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

  1. I’ve been meaning to read this, so I can watch the movie (I can’t do one before the other…) But your comments vis-a-vis the style were repeated to me by other sources, sadly. There seems to be a contradiction between the author’s desire for lack of frills as regards the take of illness vs. a superfluous use of language… I like a more unitary vision myself.

    Happy holidays, dear Hannah! Wishing you and your family a season of calm and much cheer 🙂


    1. Yup, I’m also a believer in reading the book before watching the movie! One thing I will note is that it was a quick read, so although the style is insufferable, it will only be for about two hours of your life, haha. Thank you for the wishes, and I hope that you have also had a lovely festive break!


  2. I have a feeling this is one of those books that’s maybe better translated as a film, maybe? I heard the film got some decent reviews, and that the secondary characters there were worth taking a look! However, for now, I don’t think I’m ready for more stories with cancer either hopeful or hopeless XD

    Faye at The Social Potato


    1. I’m about to watch the movie, so it will be interesting to compare – I have seen good reviews for it as well! Like you, I think I’ve reached my quota of sick-lit for the year (I say that with 2 more days of 2015 left, haha).


  3. I totally agree!! I also found it overly crude? I mean, a lot of the humour was funny….but some of it was just WAY too much and I found myself just being frustrated and ughhhh instead of enjoying the book. But YEAH. I did enjoy how it’s dark humour but also light humour?!? Have you seen the movie?! It’s on my to do list. xD
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!


    1. I just recently watched the movie – after finishing the book – and I have to say, the movie was much better. Some of the crude aspects were toned down somewhat, and the chronological narration made it a much more enjoyable experience than the book!


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