"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review #14: Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews

I downloaded Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl from the library a few weeks ago. It's the "other book" about kids with cancer and hasn't been discussed with quite as much fervor or passion as The Book. Confession time: I still haven't read The Fault in our Stars. I love you, John Greene, but I want to keep loving you, and I'm worried TFIOS will make me not love you any more. So I fear we're at an impasse.

Anyway, back to Me and Earl. Greg is a senior in high school, and he's managed to float through the last eleven years of school by staying mainly under the radar, acquaintances with everyone, truly friends with nobody save his best friend Earl, who might be my favorite YA sidekick next to Tiny Cooper from Will Grayson, will grayson. On the first day of school, Greg comes home to find his mother in tears; it seems an old family friend named Rachel has been diagnosed with cancer, and Greg's mother tasks him with renewing his friendship with Rachel, a directive that Greg wants nothing to do with.

So Greg, in an embarrassing and awkward phone call, reaches out to Rachel, and eventually they form a sort of tenuous friendship. Somewhere along the way, it comes out that Greg and Earl make movies, and they are roped in to making a movie for Rachel, a move that catapults Greg from the invisibility he has so carefully cultivated straight in to the spotlight at a time when he wants to do nothing more than to disappear in to the woodwork.

I will admit that at times, Greg's self-deprecation got a little bit wearying and almost too self-aware. I'm not sure it's a good idea to start off your book with a quote about how reading this book might make you want to come to the narrator's house and kill him, although knowing that the book has been made in to a movie, I did appreciate the next bit: when you convert a good book to a film, stupid things happen. But Andrews so deftly captured the awkwardness and selfishness of young adulthood, the insensitivity and inconsiderateness, the naiveté, the feeling that you're supposed to have it all together but in reality, you're not really sure if you're allowed to go to the bathroom unsupervised, nor are you sure you should be, that it was easy to forgive that little misstep.

Greg wasn't the perfect hero; in fact, a lot of times, I couldn't stand Greg and wanted to smack him for some of his choices. But that just drives home the feeling that Andrews perfectly nailed the teenage mind. Cause let's face it: I'm sure we've all had moments where we can't stand the teenagers in our lives. And Rachel wasn't the perfect patient, either. There was no well-lit scene where she serenely accepted her fate or raged against the unfairness of her disease against a backdrop of a thunderstorm.  She was by turns bitchy and funny and sweet and mean and bored and excited. In other words, your average teenage girl.

But Earl. Earl is my everything. Earl is a man of few words, but what words he did speak were perfection. Earl is to Greg what Tiny Cooper was to Will Grayson, although I'm pretty sure that Earl could fit in to Tiny's pocket.
You don't know shit, man," he said finally. He was brisk and sad at the same time. "I hate to get on you for this. I'm not getting on you for this, but I'm just telling you. This is the first... negative thing that happened to you in your life. And you can't be overreacting to it and making big-ass expensive decisions based on it. I'm just saying. People die. Other people do stupid shit. I’m surrounded by family members doing stupid shit. I used to think I had to do shit for them. I still wanna do shit for them. But you gotta live your own life. You gotta take care of your own shit before you get started doing things for errybody else.” 
The humor is dark, the writing is sharp, the dialogue is crisp, the story will make you laugh and cry and be angry all at the same time. Andrews just went on the same list as John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and David Levithan.

So. If this was some normal fictional young-adult book, this is the part of the story where after the film, the entire high school would rise to their feet and applaud, and Earl and I would find True Acceptance and begin to Truly Believe in Ourselves and Rachel would somehow miraculously make a recovery, or maybe she would die but we would Always Have Her to Thank for Making Us Discover Our Inner Talent, and Madison would become my girlfriend and I would get to nuzzle her boobs like an affectionate panda cub whenever I wanted.That is why fiction sucks. None of that happened. Instead, pretty much everything happened that I was afraid of, except worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment