Book Review – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Author: Jesse Andrews

My Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.

Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.

Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.

And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

((this review is spoiler-free))

I have to admit – I committed the cardinal sin and watched the film first.

I know, I know. “Why on earth would you do that Lydia you know that ruins it!!” And I do know. I usually avoid watching films before I read books, but honestly, the main reason I wanted to read this book was because of the film. I stumbled upon it while I was flicking through Sky Movies, recognised the title, and decided to watch it. What I saw, changed my life – and that’s not something I like to say often. I spent a few months trying to find a copy of the book with the original cover (as much as I love the film I can’t stand film covers for books) and finally found one in the Islington Waterstone’s last month.

After finishing some books which I’d been procrastinating for months, I finally picked up the book and started to read. I was finished in about a day.

I’ll admit, at first I was worried that the book would no where near live up to my expectations, but soon enough I was engrossed, and laughing constantly. It’s been a while since I really laughed at a book, or at least laughed as much as I did here, so that was a completely welcome surprise.

Critics argue that Greg, the main character, is too self-obsessed, turning Rachel’s problems into his own and not doing enough to fully understand what she’s going through. To me, this is the whole point. This book isn’t about cancer or a cancer patient, it’s about Greg; his daily thoughts and his journey of attempting to realise his flaws. This is not a book intended to reveal the struggles of someone diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s simply a book about a boy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying that Greg’s obsession with his social standing is a character flaw, but when did we decide that flawed characters were a bad thing? The juxtaposition of what Greg perceives to be his own personal flaws (social awkwardness) and what they actually are (an obsession with staying invisible, a deep-set fear of rejection, and unwillingness to commit to anything) is what makes him such an interesting, complex, human character, and I applaud Jesse Andrews for this.

I don’t feel like I can say much more about this without spoiling the plot, so I’ll leave this review here. All I can say is that I definitely recommend anyone to read this book, and then watch the film. Or the other way round, do what you want. The film is genuinely one of my favourites, (so much so that I wrote a 1600 word essay dissecting the seven minute closing sequence for my AS Film Studies coursework) so please, go watch and read, and let me know what you think! If you’ve already read/watched this then feel free to leave a comment down below. I want to know what everyone else thinks!

-Lydia

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