Although “Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews was originally sent to me a while ago so I could review it, I only recently started reading it in Spanish class to show my friend that I have more important things to do than conjugate verbs for her.
Luckily, it turned out to be an exceptionally good book. It’s one of the most addicting books I’ve read in a while.
Greg Gaines is a high school senior in Pittsburgh. (The real Pittsburgh, not the one in Kansas.) He’s always tried to maintain a low profile and be accepted by all the cliques at Benson High School, from “Middle-Class African-American Junior Sub-clique 4c” to “Senior Jewish Girl Sub-clique 2a.”
Greg pretty much gave up on making friends in middle school. Earl is the only person even close to a friend of his, but Greg describes him as more of a co-worker.
Greg’s life is thrown totally out of balance when his mom tells him that Rachel Kushner, a girl from Hebrew School, has acute myelogenous leukemia. His mom wants him to be friendly with her and make her feel better, even though they were never really friends and haven’t talked in a long time.
So Greg, being the extremely awkward person he is, reluctantly goes over to Rachel’s house and talks about himself in between maladroit statements about her. Oddly enough, Rachel begins to enjoy his company, and they become friends.
At school, Rachel and Greg start talking, and he even sits with her and the Senior Jewish Girl Sub-clique 2a at lunch, which consists of her two friends, Anna and Naomi. (It seems as though when an author names a character Naomi, she is always mean, obnoxious or just weird. I would like to contest that.)
Madison Hartner, who is the hottest girl at Benson, according to Greg (as well as his fifth-grade crush), and “probably dates one of the Steelers or something,” also sits with them, about which he is inwardly thrilled.
After spending a lot of time with him, Rachel figures out that Greg and Earl make movies. Earl betrays their partnership by asking Rachel if she wants to watch the movies and then gives them to her.
Although both boys think the movies are terrible (but not put that nicely), Rachel gets so much joy out of them that Madison asks Greg to make one for Rachel. Greg reluctantly agrees, but only because he thinks Madison is so hot.
Greg and Earl set out unwillingly to make a movie for Rachel, but they just cannot make something good. Their final product is both of them saying a message to her.
Greg’s mom finds out about it and shows the school, which leads to a school assembly just for the viewing of the boys’ movie. For some reason that I still cannot figure out, Greg’s peers tease him relentlessly, and his life is pretty much ruined.
Being the book that “Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl” is, most of the problems eventually resolve.
But if I wrote any more, I’d ruin it, and that’s no fun.
I would recommend “Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl” to high school-aged kids who enjoy reading comedy or school stories.