Author: Jesse Andrews
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Published: 2012 (this edition 2015)
It’s once again time for me to experiment with reading young adult fiction and try to convince myself that I’m a fan. This time, I decided to opt for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, as I’m looking forward to watching the indie adaptation but felt I should read the book first. The novel tells the story of Greg, who is forced to befriend a classmate with terminal cancer by his mother, and his friend Earl with whom he makes parodies of famous movies. I can’t say I disliked this book, and I did find it quite amusing, but I didn’t feel it was as moving as it tried to be. Like a lot of young adult fiction, I felt it tried too hard to make its readers emotional, and some of the laughs also felt quite forced.
After I started reading Me and Earl… it soon became apparent it would feature several supposedly humorous stereotypes. Whilst they were funny at first, Andrews soon began resorting to them a little too frequently and thus they grew a tad irritating after a while. This was particularly true of the character of Earl, who I felt Andrews tried a little too hard to make into a typical African- American teen from a troubled background- I felt that I’d seen the same character in several other books at times and soon became irritated by him. Similarly, my problem with the protagonist Greg was that in sometimes felt as if the author was trying too hard to make him seem nerdy and socially awkward. That being said, I was somewhat amused by his strategies for coping in high school- something every teen can identify with! My main issue with the book, however, was Rachel- the “dying girl” herself. I simply found myself feeling somewhat indifferent towards her, despite my best efforts at shedding a tear or too. I simply didn’t know enough about the character to feel particularly interested in what happened to her. My other problem was the relationship between Greg and Rachel; whilst I admire Andrews’ decision to have them remain platonic and thus defy many YA stereotypes, I simply felt they weren’t close enough. The relationship had gone from one extreme to the other when all that was needed was a happy medium in which Greg didn’t fall madly in love with Rachel, but they at least became very close friends.
I had mixed feelings about the way Me and Earl… was actually written too. On the one hand, it was obvious from the off that it would be quite darkly funny, yet the downside of this was that the narrative sometimes read as though it was trying rather hard to sustain the humorous narrative with which it opened. The funniest moments came when I didn’t feel Andrews was trying too hard to make his audience laugh and the comedic element to a scene simply came naturally. One thing I did love about the way the story was told was the fact the narrative sometimes featured film scripts. As a lover of film as well as books, I thought this was a quirky touch to an otherwise quite average story. The effort they out into their work, and their dejected criticism of it, further served to make me feel more warm towards Greg and Earl. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how the idea of the parodies has been broached in the movie.
As a whole, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is yet another YA novel with a reputation it, in my opinion, does not deserve. I found the only kind of empathy/emotion it incited in me was to make me wonder what I would do if a friend of mine was in Rachel’s situation, something which I’ve wondered before without the help of a book. If you like YA fiction I’m sure this is a novel you’ll enjoy, but the narrative simply sounded a bit too much like a teenage boy for my liking- there’s writing in character, then there’s just being plain irritating!
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3/5)