Greg Gaines’ Method For Making It Through High School Unscathed: be friends with everyone. Or, rather: be friendly with everyone, but not get in really good with anyone. That way, he can coast through, unconnected, and basically unscathed. His only real “friend” (“co-worker is more like it”) is Earl, with whom he makes films. They’re seniors, and while they’re not very good filmmakers, they do OK, and life is good.
That is, until his mom gets Involved. See, the daughter of one of her friends, Rachel — whom Greg kind of knows from Hebrew school — develops leukemia and Greg’s mom thinks he should Be Her Friend in this Trying Time. Which is the last thing he wants. And yet, because of his mother’s Powers of Persuasion (and because he’s generally a decent enough kid), he and Earl end up a part of Rachel’s life.
While I was reading, I came to think of this one as the anti-cancer-book cancer book. There was no Deeper Meaning. There were no Life Lessons. There was no Heartbreaking Moment. There were no tears. It took everything you expect from a kid-has-cancer-and-dies book and turned it on its head. In fact, it was aggressively ordinary. Greg is an ordinary kid who is just going through the motions, doing stuff he likes; not really a bad kid, but not really an ambitious one either. Earl is about the same, except he’s trying to manage things on top of an absolutely horrid living environment. (Which is just accepted as horrid, without any commentary or meaning attached to it). Rachel’s not even that extraordinary, either: she has cancer, sure, and maybe she’s dying, but what she really wants to do is hang out with her friends.
But, even in spite of its ordinariness (maybe because of it), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has hilarious moments. It’s uneven; not all of it is as brilliant as a few passages (again with the ordinary), but when it is on, in all its foul, 17-year-old boy glory, it is On. Snort-soda-through-the-nose funny.
It wasn’t my absolute favorite book of all time, but I thoroughly admire what Andrews did in this novel.
Rated: High for many, many f-words.