I laughed so much at this book.
Is that terrible of me?
Greg Gaines has lived a life of anonymity. Don’t step on anyone’s toes, don’t get too close, don’t let anyone know about his film making projects with his violent, short friend, Earl.
That is until he learns that Rachel Kushner has been diagnosed with leukaemia. Rachel, who went to Hebrew school with him. Rachel, who goes to high school with him now. Rachel, who he really doesn’t care about.
But forces (mainly his mother) conspire to get him to visit Rachel, despite how much he doesn’t want to.
At first, it may not seem like this book has a plot. Greg seems to just go around not making friends and making movies. But slowly, the plot with Rachel begins to unfold, and the story becomes much more about death.
Yes, it is a cancer story, but the cancer isn’t the issue here. There’s no romanticizing the disease, partly because Greg isn’t the type to romanticize. However, the main focus is really the way people react to death, especially when they know it is coming. And I like that angle a lot. It’s perfect for a young adult story because by that point they know someone in their community who has died.
Greg is a well constructed character, and his development is not only logical, but completely relatable. Well, maybe not relatable in the Jewish-anti-social-filmmaker kind of way, but relatable in the big-things-are-happening-and-I-don’t-know-how-to-deal-with-it kind of way. He’s a hilarious narrator, and his style is absolutely amazing,but I’ll get to that later.
Earl is the unexpected voice of reason in the story. He’s also a fun character, and yet probably the most serious. His life situation is terrible, but he tries his best to make the most of his difficult life. He’s sort of static in the way that he’s brilliant but lazy, but I like him as the mature character who sees life for what it is.
Rachel actually doesn’t get much characterization, but that’s part of the point. We don’t really get to see who she is, or even what she’s thinking, just how people react to her. And by making it a book about reacting to death rather than death itself is what makes the book so powerful. Because we can relate to reacting to death, but we can’t relate to death.
I like the writing style, a lot. Andrews knows the voice of his character well. Greg is really uncomfortable writing, leading to consistent inconsistencies in the style: lists, screenplays, and general snark reign supreme. The book is hilarious, buy cam switch gears into the serious and emotional rather easily. The pacing is perfect, and I really couldn’t put the book down.
My biggest gripe with the novel is the frame, which isn’t fully revealed until the last chapter. While the self-deprecating jokes about how terrible the novel is are some of the funniest, the overall frame felt unnecessary.
What I really like is that this story is more about kids dealing with death and less about the death itself. It’s heartbreakingly honest about the experience of death from the bystander’s point of view. It reminds me of an essay by John Donne, the one that claims, “no man is an island.”
Recommendation: Buy. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a brutally honest, touching, and hilarious story.