Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl!

Welcome to Day 13 of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge here at Reading on the F Train. Today's topic is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews!

Here are my thoughts on our Cybil Award Winner for Young Adult Fiction!

 Me and Earl and the Dying GirlMe and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I read this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I would love to share it with some of my former students. Like, I kind of want to buy six copies, stick a different student’s name on each one (specific students, guys I taught when they were freshmen, who were incredulous and thrilled to find that I had read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and assigned it anyway, even though yes, I knew it had Bad Words And Sex Jokes. These guys--unless I badly miss my guess--would love Greg’s artful profanity and Earl’s combination of honesty, anger, and unpredictable weirdness.)

Having been a bookish kid growing up when I did, it was inevitable that I had a Lurlene McDaniel phase. And it’s very, very hard to write a review of a Cancer Novel For Kids And Teens! without holding it up to the great grandmother of them all. Obviously, pretty much anything will compare favorably to those pastel, soft-focus stews of bad wigs, milkshakes, and regret, especially given their distinct aftertaste of DO YOU HAVE A BRUISE ANYWHERE ON YOUR BODY? HAVE YOU EVER FELT TIRED BEFORE? YOU PROBABLY DEFINITELY HAVE CANCER!!! As a genre, there have been some pretty large technological advances since then:

--Humor (of any kind)

--The disproving of the theory previously held by the medical community that two pretty girls with cancer who come within a hundred yards of each other will meld into a codependent best friendship that is secretly parasitic because it will end in one of them dying 100% of the time

--Characters who are less than 85% punchable

But even among these New Cancer Novels, this one stands out. Greg’s intense discomfort with himself and everything in his life rang very true, and his alarming realization that his crazy best friend was also a better person than he was felt real and familiar in a way that I loved (but didn’t love, because that’s a hard thing to feel.) I also appreciated the dynamic between Greg and Earl because it was so clear that Greg didn’t understand a lot of Earl’s life. They come from very different backgrounds, which doesn’t mean that they don’t have a legitimate friendship, but it does mean that Greg is often at a loss or in over his head where Earl is concerned. And I appreciated the utter lack of anything magical. There is no feel-good ending--you know, the kind you sort of expect even as you tell yourself how unrealistic that would be, but then it happens anyway and you’re glad? Not here. This is as honest and accurate an ending as I can think of. But, unless you’re extremely squeamish about language, violence, drugs, sex, illness, or bad filmmaking, I’m going to strongly recommend this one, so go ahead and see for yourself.

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  1. I still haven't picked this one up. I have so many books to get to and my TBR list gets more and more ridiculous every day. I'm starting to get that panicky feeling that I'll never get to all the books I'd like to in my lifetime. O_o

    Great review and recommendation as usual, Jess! :)

  2. I've heard great things about this book. I love it when a book gets you thinking for days, weeks, months after.

  3. This one sounds great, and I was laughing out loud reading your thoughts about the Lurlene McDaniels books of yore. Because of those books, I am still freaked out by bruises and nosebleeds.


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