Thursday, May 3, 2012

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

by Jesse Andrews
Amulet Books
March 1, 2012 | $16.95

Greg Gaines doesn't have a lot of friends in his Pittsburgh, PA school and he's not really jiving on the idea of college next year. He spends a lot of time making sure he's as inconspicuous as possible, as does his only real close friend, Earl. During their senior year, when Greg's meddling mother insists he reach out to a childhood friend named Rachel who's been diagnosed with leukemia and then intervenes again at the big school assembly, he and Earl get more than they bargained for. Through first-person narration in one of the funniest, most self-deprecating voices I've read in years, Greg wonders about friendship, life and death, sex and love, and the future.

I laughed out loud throughout the entire book. I felt a little silly reading it in public because I couldn't help myself. There are doozy sentences, such as Greg's final word in a chapter wherein he and Earl accidentally get stoned at school (they think through their favorite teacher's soup, but later learn the source was actually Earl's older brother's cookies): "Holy flame throwing Jesuses. There are definitely kids out there who enjoy being on drugs, but I can promise you that Greg Gaines is not one of them." Rachel's mother, after telling Greg he's a riot is rewarded with a one-liner: "I'm illegal in twelve states." A scene between Greg and Rachel revolving around a nonsense riff about his potential sexual attraction to pillows ends with her asking, "Do I have to keep you away from my pillows?" to which he answers "No. Are you serious? Those pillows are all dudes." And these are only three examples. This review is not like a movie trailer. I didn't just put all the funny parts in this paragraph. There's plenty more where that came from.

This is Andrews's debut novel, and he calls it, in the acknowledgements, "this weird little book." I have to agree. And this weird little book is worth a read. The bright striped cover and marquee frames at the start of each chapter echo the film-making theme in the story as Greg and Earl learn how to be together, how to be apart, and how to figure out what's next as they grow up.

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