Books for Younguns, Young Adults and the Young-at-Heart

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

For the holidays, I'll be reviewing a book or series a day from December 1st through the 24th.

First up is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, one of Left Bank Books's holiday picks for teens.

Greg doesn't have any friends.  Earl's not his friend; they just make movies together.  Rachel's not his friend; his mom's just making him spend time with her because she's dying.  But when Rachel finds out about Earl and the movies, Greg's entire life changes and suddenly he's not so unattached anymore.

Look at that last paragraph.  Now forget everything it makes you think this book is about.  This book is nothing you expect it to be.  It is smart.  It is funny.  It is platitude-free.  Most of all, it is very real.  Nothing about it fells contrived, and Greg is one of the most painfully flawed narrators I've seen in a while.  I say "painfully" because I doubt many readers won't be able to recognize a piece of themselves in him.  However, rather than making you feel bad about not living up to a heroic ideal, he drives home just how human an ignoble reaction to death and dying is.  But don't go thinking it's too serious.  "You'll laugh; you'll cry" has become such a cliche, but this book literally had me laughing out loud involuntarily and literally had tears of deep genuine sadness rolling down my cheeks.  At the same time.  How often does that happen?  The only reason to avoid this book is if you are sensitive to profanity.  If you are, then you'll hate this book, and you'll especially hate Earl.  Otherwise, this is an awesome book, and totally deserving of that fantastic cover.

This is recommended as a gift for teen boys who want a recognizable narrator, readers looking for something to contrast with John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and anyone coming to terms with their thoughts on losing friends.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is published by Harry N. Abrams and retails for $16.95 (hardcover).  I got my advance readers copy from the publisher (although this review was not solicited or otherwise compensated).  You can get yours at Left Bank Books today!

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