Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews (2012)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Interest Level: 15-18
Me and Earl and the Dying GirlGenerally, I give a book 50 pages. If it hasn’t captured me by then, I’m outta here – life’s too short, and there are a lot of other books that are waiting for my attention. This one pushed my boundaries a bit, and ultimately, I’m so very glad I gave in. Greg Gaines is a senior in high school, in Pittsburgh. His dad is a professor at Carnegie Mellon, and (thus) a strange creature in the house. His mum is a Jewish mother who lies to him regularly (“she said I’m actually very handsome”) and seems determined to ruin his life. His only friend is Earl, a remarkably short teen who is staying out of trouble despite an alcoholic mother, missing father, and criminals as step- and half-brothers. The friendship is puzzling; they are linked by a shared love for filmmaking. At school, Greg avoids being part of any crowd and instead works on being invisible but friendly. His plans go awry when his mother, bent on ruining his life, insists he befriends Rachel, who has leukemia (the eponymous Dying Girl). The novel is a weird blend of screenplay and traditional prose and dialogue, with an occasional helping of grossout and crude comedy. I was doubtful at the start, but stuck to it. By page 100 I was hooked, and shortly afterward, at about the halfway point (it’s about 300 pages), it really hit its stride and I was laughing out loud, wishing I had a disgusting friend who could share my delight in Andrews’ descriptions of nutsack soup … Told you it was gross. Author Andrews (another first-time novelist) never slips into the sappy or the macabre; he could do with a lighter touch when it comes to the screenplay style, but that’s just my opinion. Funny, moving, yet never sentimental. It’s not for everyone, but teenaged readers who are confused and secretly afraid of what comes after high school will really get this one. And don’t sweat the dying girl.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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