Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Greg has prided himself on being a high school nobody, able to melt into the scenery and never get noticed.  His only friend is Earl, and the two of them are obsessed with making weird movies which largely turn out to be homages to Herzog and Coppola.  Life is going along well enough until Greg’s mom forces him to rekindle a friendship with Rachel, who has been diagnosed with leukemia.  Hilarity and heartbreak ensue.

In all honesty, this was the only one of the Cybils finalists that I really cared about.  This was my only horse in the game after all of my other favorite titles were cut.  Jesse Andrews’s debut is well worth fighting for, and is well worth a reader’s time and investment.  Smart, funny, and absolutely authentic, this is definitely a standout of last year.

There’s a lot of great stuff at work in Andrews’s novel (which will get comparisons to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, even though it shouldn’t and can completely stand on its own), but what works best is Greg’s authentic narration.  He works hard to convince readers that he’s not likable or remarkable in any way, but it doesn’t take long to work out that he’s totally wrong about himself.  He’s funny, smart, and has a good shot at becoming a decent human being.  It’s easy to see why Rachel likes to hang out with him.

Andrews does a nice job with the supporting characters as well, but especially in the case of Earl.  Earl is an angry, disaffected youth, and his friendship with Greg is like a ticking time bomb.  The fact that Andrews doesn’t shy away from this makes the novel all that much stronger.  The very real fact that Greg and Earl will have to confront their differences sooner rather than later help propel the story towards its somewhat inevitable conclusion.

There’s plenty to like here.  The book is laugh-out-loud funny (a rarity for this reader) and so spot-on that it’s almost uncanny.  Andrews has a fresh voice and a lot to offer the YA cannon.  This is a great read that should have appeal to both male and female readers.  There’s a surprising amount of heart here without it ever becoming overly-sentimental.  Definitely one of the best books of last year.

Highly, highly recommended.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Harry N. Abrams: 2012. Electronic ARC read for Cybils Round 1 Panel.

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