Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews 

By  Turn The Page

The cover is prob­a­bly my favourite thing about this book.

Not that this a bad book — I think it deserves all the rave reviews. Its def­i­nitely one of the bet­ter can­cer books I’ve read about a child dying (though why I keep pick­ing these up I don’t know), as it avoids the hor­ri­ble, sac­cha­rine, cliches you nor­mally come across in these types of books *coughJohn­Green­cough*. It also has some very funny moments.

The truth is, I found being in Greg’s head a weird mix­ture of amus­ing, annoy­ing, dull and tedious… which I think was kind of the point.

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.

Rather than have his char­ac­ters expe­ri­ence life-altering epipha­nies or fall in love or become wiser than their years, Andrew’s gives us Greg. Your aver­age seventeen-year-old who is socially awk­ward, a bit of an idiot, lazy and very often self­ish. In other words, he reacts to his sort-of-friend/classmate dying in a way that is refresh­ingly honest.

He doesn’t want to spend time with Rachel — but his mum makes him. He has no idea what to say to a girl who’s dying and so ends up say­ing the wrong thing entirely which leads to uncom­fort­able silences. He resents the impact this girl’s dying has on his hereto easy, if mun­dane, life. He’s sad, but mostly because for the first time, he’s faced with the shock­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing real­iza­tion of his own mor­tal­ity. He grieves… and finds it remark­ably easy to fall back into every­day life. These are not, well… heroic reac­tions. But I think they are human ones, even if we might not want to admit it.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a can­cer book that’s not really a can­cer book. I liked that there was no ide­al­ism, that Rachel isn’t a saint full of pro­found wis­dom, that no one falls in love and that Greg isn’t a bet­ter per­son at the end of it. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl doesn’t have some life affirm­ing mes­sage and doesn’t manip­u­late you into feel­ing all the things. It’s the most hon­est and real­is­tic can­cer book I’ve come across, as well as being the first one that didn’t make me feel utterly depressed for days after read­ing it. While not a per­sonal favourite, (the jokes were occa­sion­ally over­done, I didn’t like Earl much and there’s only so long I can take being stuck inside a seventeen-year-old boy’s head), I would def­i­nitely rec­om­mend pick­ing it up, par­tic­u­larly if you’re a fan of the old Adrian Mole diaries.