Funny Books for Awkward Teens: ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’
Before I tell you about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews, I need to give you a small pop quiz. Please pick an answer to this question: When I read The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, I…
A. Thought it was a lovely, brilliant, moving book
B. Liked it, but thought it was a bit unrealistic
C. Hated it with a red-hot passion
D. I haven’t read the book. It sounds too depressing.
The reason I ask is that Andrews wrote Me and Earl and the Dying Girl as an anti-The Fault in Our Stars story. So if your answer is A, I suggest you read the reviews of other books on this site, because Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is just not going to work for you. If your answer is B, you may like this book rather a lot. If it’s C, you’ll love it — even if it’s only so you can nyah-nyah-nyah fans of John Green. And if it’s D, I’m sorry, but it isn’t always possible to escape the not-so-nice facts of life, and this book may help you abandon your emotional cowardice.
SO. Now let me tell you what it’s about.
With a title like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, this book sounds funny and irreverent, which it most certainly is. But it’s also realistic (well, realistic-ish), so you’ll laugh, but sometimes around a lump in your throat.
Greg Gaines simply cannot commit. You see that in the way he’s worked out his life so that he doesn’t have a single enemy. This means he never has to take a stand for or against anybody or any issue. This also means he doesn’t have a single friend, because a person who is friends with everybody is friends with nobody in particular and never has to be a friend in need. Well, Greg does have Earl, but… more on that later. To Greg’s horror, his mother attacks him one day with the news that Rachel, a girl in his class, has been diagnosed with leukemia and is likely dying; he must hang out with her to keep her spirits up, his mom says, starting right away.
Greg’s mother hasn’t the faintest idea that a) Greg and Rachel aren’t friends; b) Greg, in fact, had once led Rachel on solely to make another girl jealous, and then dumped her; and c) Greg cannot deal with the idea of death in as tender a manner as Hazel and Augustus in The Fault in Our Stars. But almost before he can blink, Greg is hanging out with Rachel.
This does not go well.
Rachel is wondering why Greg is suddenly in her house when he’s never shown the slightest interest in her since his middle school weaselly behaviour, and Greg is so uncomfortable with his forced mission to raise her spirits that all he can talk about is death. But slowly, awkwardly, he and Rachel become friends.
Then Rachel is hospitalised, and Greg can’t deal with it. Will he dump her again?
And what about Earl? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you a thing about him beyond his name because the author himself only (and reluctantly) reveals Earl about halfway through the book; I can’t do what he couldn’t bring himself to do. I guess you’ll just have to read it.
But Earl is the key to this very, very funny book that all awkward teens will relate to.
For all its humour, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl can sometimes hit where it hurts. But if you’re 14 or up, I think you can deal with that while you laugh.