18 March 2013
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Andrews, Jesse. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Amulet Books, 2012.
This book follows Greg, who has made a career out of not being friends with or really noticed by anyone in his school. He has tried to have zero social impact in his life. He calls Earl his coworker, as they share a love of movies and have created several films themselves. Enter Rachel. Greg "dated" Rachel several years ago in an attempt to make another girl jealous. Now Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia, and Greg's mom decides that Greg needs to spend time with Rachel because it's the right thing to do. Greg introduces Earl to Rachel, and the two of them continue to visit her and try to cheer her up as her illness progresses. [This summary makes the book sound kind of lame, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers.]
I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. Greg is kind of obnoxious, but Earl is funny, and I appreciated their film-making obsession even if I didn't really understand it. And the sections of the book that are written in script form are not nearly as obnoxious as those in Between You & Me, first because they are written correctly, and second because the bulk of the story is written in standard prose, so the scripted interruptions are not overwhelming.
My only problem with this book is that Earl is a stereotyped African-American character who has a horrible home life and lives in a bad neighborhood and speaks with stereotypical "ghetto" phrases and mannerisms. Why did the black character have to be the one from the ghetto? I think Earl's home situation definitely added to the plot, but the story could have been set up differently than a friendship between a middle class white boy and a poor black boy.
Red Flags: Lots and lots of profanity, also lots of references to sex and to bodily functions. The boys are pretty gross at times, and from my experience teaching, I can say that many teenage boys talk like this on occasion. However, these boys are a bit over-the-top, so if profanity in books bothers you, or you don't like gross "potty talk," then skip this book.
I would recommend this book as an alternative to the sappy, typical, Lurlene McDaniels-esque cancer stories, perhaps as a high-school not-G-rated version of Jordan Sonnenblick's After Ever After.