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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By Jesse Andrews
ISBN: 9781419701764
Publisher: Amulet, an imprint of the Abrams
Date of Publication: 2012

Reader’s Annotation:
Greg Gaines would prefer to lead a neutral life and have no enemies during high school. This wish is challenged when he’s forced to be friends with Rachel, who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Plot Summary:
Greg Gaines doesn’t want to be noticed. He doesn’t want trouble from anybody at his high school. He would prefer to live out his high school experience without any conflict as he doesn’t feel it’s worth his time. So Greg spends his days jumping from one clique to another in the hopes that no one will notice his lack of affiliation with any of them.

Greg has one good friend and that friend’s name is Earl. Earl is a profane, short, black kid with too many brothers and a mother with a substance abuse problem. Greg and Earl share a common interest in films, specifically offbeat foreign films. This stemmed from a time when they were bored and found Greg’s father’s collection of films. It was after watching Werner Herzog’s Aquirre, The Wrath of God that they decided that they should make their own films. Their first picture was a sequel to Herzog’s Aquirre titled “Earl, The Wrath of God II”. (The plot contains a journey to find the lost city of EARL Dorado. The short film was shot on location in Pittsburgh)

In between Greg’s desire for animity and Earl’s hormonal profane nature, Greg is pushed into the high school experience when his mother forces Greg to socialize with Rachel, a family friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. As Greg continues his interactions with Rachel, he becomes aware that he needs to come to terms about his desire to be left alone. And as the days grow shorter for Rachel, Greg begins to understand, that he has a bigger influence on his life than he thought he did.

Critical Evaluation:
Jesse Andrew’s first novel isn’t so much a story of a boy trying to find his place in the world but a love letter to the power of cinema. Greg and Earl’s love for Werner Herzog is a symbolization that their paths will not always be easy and that a lonely road can be the more interesting option.

Greg’s relationship with Rachel is fun to read, despite the issues with death and cancer. While there is a hint of romance (more from Earl’s perspective instead of Greg), the story is more of a hormonal mess on the part of Greg, who clearly has no clue of what he is doing in his life. Greg’s relationship with Earl is also fun to read merely for the fat that they are on the opposite spectrum of personalities. Their lack of other friends and mutual love of films is their common ground. Other aspects of their long and funny friendship makes for hilarious, snappy dialogue.

Andrews has a very funny, twisted sense of humor that plays well into the characterization and the dialogue. The first-person voice of Greg is well-written, though the character can be too negative at times. Andrews employs different techniques to his writing as the novel is presented in both prose and screenplay formats. This does not diminish the story but enhances Greg and Andrews’s love of cinema.

Overall, the story was funny and superb. The characters were amazing and well worth any lucky reader’s time and effort.

Information about the Author:

From Abrams Books author profile, Jesse Andrews is a graduate of Harvard University and a resident of Brooklyn, New York.  This is his first novel.

Jesse Andrews on Tumblr

Jesse Andrews on Twitter

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Filmmaking, Foreign Films, Cancer

Booktalking Ideas:
How are movies an escape from reality?
Do you have a favorite director?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests a reading age of 14 to 18. I would suggest a higher starting point with 16 and up.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would be language concerns.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
During a vacation to Seattle, I had a chance to visit my favorite bookstore, Elliot Bay Books. This book had a nice display in the Young Adult section. I sat in the section thumbing though the first pages and found myself entranced. When I discovered I had read the first three chapters, I thought it might be a great idea to purchase the book and finish it during my trip home. It has become one of my all-time favorite books and it has increased my love of Werner Herzog, a director not really known for lovable films.

Reference:
Abrams. (2012). Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Abrams Books. Retrieved from http://www.abramsbooks.com/Books/Me_and_Earl_and_the_Dying_Girl-9781419701764.html

Kirkus Reviews. (2012). Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jesse-andrews/me-and-earl-and-dying-girl/

Bonus!

Aquirre, The Wrath of God Trailer

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