Me and Earl and The Dying Girl (2012)
By Jesse Andrews
CAUTION: There are spoilers.
I first heard about this book when I saw the trailer for it in the movie theater. The trailer for the movie (which I have yet to watch) got me interested in the book. So my friend let me borrow his copy. I would describe this book as humorous, entertaining, and realistic.
Greg Gaines’ method of surviving high school is being acquainted with everyone, but he doesn’t get too attached to a specific clique. Greg has only one real friend, Earl Jackson, and they spend most of their time together outside of school making films. Greg is self-conscious about the films they make, and so he doesn’t show it to anyone else.
One day, Greg’s mom tells him that his “childhood friend,” Rachel Kushner, has acute myelogenous leukemia. Greg’s mother forces him to hangout with Rachel in order to make her feel better. At first, Greg was reluctant to hangout with her, but then they eventually spend more time together. Greg introduces Rachel to his friend, Earl, and Earl invites Rachel to see the movies that Greg and him made. Greg becomes angry at Earl for allowing Rachel to see their “horrible” movies despite her enjoyment in watching them.
This book doesn’t have the typical cancer/major illness story formula. In fact, Jesse Andrews seems to make a parody out of those type of stories. For example, usually in these illness-theme YA novels, the two major characters fall in love, or one of the main characters will have an epiphany about the importance of life. However, in this novel, we don’t seem to get that. In the beginning, Greg doesn’t feel any emotional attachment to Rachel because they were never close in the first place, and hanging out with her was like a homework assignment to him. Yet it is when she is no longer there, Greg realizes that the times he spent with her are the only memories he had, and he felt that he never got to truly know her. Greg thinks that he wasted those times as oppose to cherishing them.
Furthermore, I enjoyed the sarcasm and crude humor of Greg and Earl. It is interesting to look at Greg and Earl’s relationship. They come from very different backgrounds. Greg comes from a stable middle-income family and both his parents are raising him and his siblings. However, Earl is growing up in a broken family; in which his mother neglects him and his brothers, who are all involved in gangs and crime. One could assume that Earl is a bad influence for Greg, but Earl is actually a really good friend. In fact, it is Earl that seems more empathetic towards Rachel’s situation as oppose to Greg. Also, it is Earl that makes Greg realize that he shouldn’t be insecure or selfish about showing their films.
I would like to discuss the ending (so if you don’t want to know what happens, you can stop reading here). After Rachel’s passing, Greg and Earl are sitting at a table, eating pho. Personally, I think it is at this moment that I realize how different Greg and Earl are despite being good friends. Greg “wrote” this story as an explanation to why his school work fell during his senior year, in hopes that the admission office will still accept him to the University of Pittsburgh. He is also considering taking up filmmaking again. However, Earl decides to quit filmmaking, and work at a local fast-food joint because he wants to be there for his mother and brothers. I think it is interesting how realistic this scene is because it shows how an individual’s background and past shapes their future despite having personal dreams and desires. Also, the novel ends abruptly to show the uncertainty of life. We are not given any indication whether Greg will get into college and become a successful filmmaker, and also whether Earl is satisfied and stable with his life. I think this novel’s ending shows a realistic viewpoint about life in which no one is guaranteed a happy ending.
Okay, since I am doing the 30-Day Song Challenge, I would like to point out that in the last chapter,“Sexy Love” By Ne-Yo seems to be playing in the background. I mean all the clues pointed to that song. Do any of you know why that song is picked out of all the songs Jesse Andrews could have chosen? Or was he just being random? Or he picked that song because while writing this novel, he was currently listening to it?
Overall, I enjoyed this novel and I hope to watch the movie soon. I may have to buy it on DVD.