Jesse Andrew’s debut novel, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl follows the life of Greg Gaines; a friendless, misogynistic, self centred seventeen year old struggling through his last year of high school and the ever growing burden of choosing colleges.
Greg comes home one day to find his mother in a rather…depressed mood after hearing that his childhood friend, Rachel, has been diagnosed with AML, acute myeloid leukaemia – a disease which affects both blood and bone marrow. The story unfolds as he is forced by his mother to be there for Rachel, ‘The Dying Girl’, as she struggles through everything Leukaemia entails.
I gave this novel three out of five stars. I did not enjoy this book as much as I expected to (based on other reviews I’d read/seen.)
Although there were things I appreciated about this book, it would be a lie to say I didn’t have any problems with it. I was not a fan of the writing style, and it’s inconsistent formatting, nor did I enjoy Greg’s point of view or his irrelevant commentary on absolutely everything. I most definitely was not satisfied with the open ending of the book.
And I love to admit, Greg was the main problem. He was/is far from likeable and clearly doesn’t learn from his own mistakes. He’s racist, narcissistic and a real jerk, to say the least, for a wide number of reasons. His attitude towards woman, the LGBQT community and his means to get out of an awkward situation are just few of the justifiable reasons to dislike this character immensely. At one stage of the book, Greg openly admits that he only continues to visit Rachel because she’s sick. And that if she were to recover, he would probably never continue the ‘friendship’ he’d formed. I understand that Andrews may have intentionally created Greg this way, but I was slightly disappointed in the lack of character development, despite the countless situations in which this could have occurred.
In regards to Earl, I believe there was far more than meets the eye with him, I would have loved to see Earl without Greg’s perspective. Although Earl is one of the main instigations in the questionable ‘humour’ throughout the novel, he genuinely cares about Rachel, and really wants to make her possible last days the best days she’ll have.
I did not relate with any of these characters, in turn making the two hundred and ninety five pages a slight struggle, despite my empathy towards Rachel and the situation and struggles she has to face, and how it affected those around her.
I gave the movie four stars out of the possible five as I did enjoy it. I will be forever grateful that I had a chance to see the film before picking up the novel. I loved the way it was filmed, and highlighted the different categories of film with in the novel. I was able to connect with the characters more than the book allowed me and even became slightly emotional towards the downfall.
I will give credit, however, to the book, as it allowed a great insight to Greg and Rachel’s friendship in their early teen years, which gave Greg a little substance.
I will not be rereading this book anytime soon.
Please note that these opinions are my own and I still encourage you to give the book a try if it interests you. These are simply my thoughts and view of the characters present in this debut novel.