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Review: Novel of uncensored truth

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" possesses a blatant honesty that arouses a mixture of emotions

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With a loud neon-green book jacket and a recent film adaption, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews was demanding me to read it. It seemed interesting enough, and was a clear contributor to the stacks of famous contemporary works consumed by the young adult world.

But as I read it, the two sentences chanted in my head were, “I’m uncomfortable,” and “This is so offensive, but I still can’t stop laughing.”

Here’s why:

We enter this story with Greg Gaines, the brutally honest protagonist, who warns us of how incredibly realistic this cancer story is, how much high school sucks and how his filmmaking abilities progress. Greg then introduces us to his intricate method of avoiding everyone at school, as well as to his only friend, Earl.

At first, Greg seems to have his senior year of high school mapped out. But just as I thought I knew the plot of this story. Greg’s mother manages to ruin this for the both of us — she informs Greg that a distant friend of theirs named Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia. She then uses her mystical mothering powers to force Greg to befriend Rachel and use his (excessive) witty remarks to cheer her up.

With the heavy use of banter, riffs and tangents on alien barf (I’m not making this up), Greg managed to keep Rachel laughing, all while narrating his filmmaking process and experiences with Earl. Even though Rachel is someone that causes Greg’s senior year plan to crumble, he receives true friendship from someone he considered a stranger.

While interesting and fresh, it was hard for me to get through this novel.

The first reason for this is Greg. Greg is a very real character; Andrews didn’t allow for Greg to be an all-knowing, blindly accepting person who saved Rachel or vice versa. He does not sugar coat any encounters or moments between the characters. He makes you feel as awkward as he feels in almost every social encounter. But Greg is also a frustrating and difficult character who uses humor to distract himself from painful moments, attempting to distract the reader along with him. I often felt a mixture of wanting to scream at him and give him a hug throughout the entire story.

The second reason is the story. As an avid reader, I (along with many others) often enjoy fiction for its ability to take me into a different world, far away from reality. This book was all about reality and how disappointing it truly is. Unlike a story such as “Mean Girls,” the social groups in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” were extremely similar to the ones at our own school.

The word “bizarre” best describes this entire reading experience. Not only does this book make you laugh like a crazy person (especially in public), but guides you into understanding the true severity that comes with death. Despite denying it, Greg develops maturity and true emotional bonds with new people towards the end of the book, something he lacked in the beginning.

So, despite my discomfort towards a great portion of the novel’s content, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl ” did a tremendous job of sparking emotions I have never felt while reading a book. Though aggravation and frustration were constant, so was the urge to laugh.

 

 

 

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