I had assumed that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl would be similar to The Fault in Our Stars – same kind of storyline and same sort of characters. I was wrong. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is completely different.
Jesse Andrews really has a talent for knowing what the reader is thinking. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is told in first person narrative by Greg Gaines – he directly addresses the reader – and he warns us at the beginning that the ending will not comprise of him becoming an enlightened human being who now understands the meaning of life and how precious it is. Greg actually spends much of the novel wishing he didn’t have to be friends with Rachel, the ‘dying girl’ – but he really isn’t a bad person.
Greg Gaines spends most of his time in high school cruising between different social groups, without being friends with anyone except Earl, until one day his mother tells him that his used-to-be-friend Rachel has leukaemia and that he should spend more time with her to make her feel better. So, with help from Earl, he tries to do just that, but he quickly realises that he finds it extremely difficult to summon ‘normal’ human reactions to this unfamiliar situation.
I really enjoyed the way Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is told. It is comprised of bullet points, lists, and scripts alongside the standard narration. I’ve read books where the main character addresses the reader before, but never where it’s done as well as in this book. I think this is due to the brilliant characterisation, which was completely on point. It has some of the most believable fictional teenagers I’ve come across. Greg is awkward, funny, intelligent – but not a genius – and suffers from Excessive Modesty Syndrome, which means he has a tendency to argue with someone who is trying to compliment him (‘No I haven’t been a good friend!’). The blunt book title also fits his personality. Earl, however, is angry, enjoys eating gross food, and can, quite frankly, be downright disgusting. I would’ve liked to see a bit more character development from both Earl and Rachel, but as we’re seeing them through the eyes of Greg, it is understandable that we can only see them in a certain way.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a must-read for YA contemporary fans, imbued with hilarity, grief, and a real understanding of how teenagers think like I’ve never seen before. It’s perfect for fans of The Fault in Our Stars, even though it offers a storyline that’s disparate. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes in a wonderful, quirky package, with a fantastic cover and titled chapters. Everything comes together to create a wonderful book that you’ll want to own.
This book was obtained as an eGalley from Amulet Books.