My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars
It’s really true, this is not a cancer book. Sure, there is a character who has cancer, but it most certainly is not about that. It’s not about the dying girl. It’s not even all about Earl. Really, it’s about Greg and his senior year and him kinda sorta growing as a person. It’s funny and it’s endearing, but it’s also one of those books where if you can’t get down with the main character, you aren’t going to enjoy the book.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a tremendously funny book, but it is niche humor. Not everyone is going to laugh at Greg’s tangents. I’d say if the first 5 pages aren’t your kind of humor then check out right then, because it only intensifies. Greg is awkward. He goes off on tangents that can some times veer so far from the plot that you forget what even got you there. It envelops you and makes you forget about everything else because it’s all so damn ridiculous.
Greg is self-centered. He pretty much acknowledges this and as the novel progresses, he gets called on it. His life is about him and what he wants to do, which is to make ridiculous movies he won’t show to anyone and not have any friends so not to stir up any problems with anyone. In some ways that felt entirely relatable to me. Heck, Greg in general felt like my long lost spirit animal. As someone who’s been through high school, I knew the urge to fade into the system. To not want to stand out either positively or negatively. Granted, I never took it nearly as far as Greg went, but I could get the idea. Greg and I were won, but he was way funnier than I could ever be on my best day. Then again my most humorous moments are at my expense and that’s often the case with Greg.
Anyway, there’s this other majorly important character named Earl. Though Greg would hate to admit it, Earl is his best friend. I’m not going to say much about Earl, because his parts were quite possible my favorites in the novel. He lit up on the page as a character just as ridiculous as Greg. The difference was Earl had a far more tragic life. That tragedy made Earl a better person than Greg. He kept Greg on the right path even if it didn’t seem like it. Earl was a dose of grandiose reality that anchored Greg from floating away. Earl is definitely a friend I would want to have even if he is ridiculous.
Now I would be remiss if I entirely ignored the Dying Girl. Her name was Rachel. She was most certainly dying, but it was the journey she forced Greg to go through that was interesting. In her short time with him, things changed quite a bit for Greg. She shook up his world in ways she didn’t even realize. Yet there was no romance. That was nice. It was just a friendship between the two and it was interesting to watch that grow and how Greg changed, kinda.
One last major thing that I have to mention about this novel is the interesting way of story telling. For the most part this an address from Greg straight to the reader. He knows he’s talking to you, but it’s a book. It’s a story of what’s already happened, so by the time you read the first page he knows what happens and is very aware of it. That flavors his stories and tangents in an interesting way as he has hindsight in his corner. That’s only the start of it. The story is told with a number formats as we read scripts. There are IM style conversations. Heck there are even lists. The way the story is told is constantly changing, but it’s always from Greg’s POV.
At the end of the day, I really enjoyed the novel. It made me smile. It made me laugh (like few stories do). And it just evoked this feeling of finding my long lost brethren. It just worked for me. The only reason that I didn’t give this a 4 or even 4.5 came down to two things. 1. The story ended rather abruptly. We are trucking along and enjoying the tangents and rants and all the rest. Then it reaches this point where it’s like the novel realizes it needs to stop delaying and get to the point. It just ends. There’s a little wrap up, but not much and that’s it. I just kind of wanted a little bit more. or for the ending to have been a little less focused and more tangential like the rest of the novel. 2. Relates a bit to the first point. Everything wraps up so quickly, that I don’t see any difference in Greg. Now, not every book needs to have characters changed. However, so much changed for him. His life, his friends, how he is viewed, heck even he seemed to change a bit based on what he said he was going to do. But we didn’t actually get to see any of it. I wanted a little taste of this supposedly mostly the same, but kind of different Greg that resulted from this story. I guess what I’m saying was that I wanted more.
Oh and seriously, there’s a character named Cat Stevens. That isn’t some fancy name for a person. It is literally his old cat who he named Cat Stevens. A cat which seems to have an affinity for Greg’s robe wearing, weird food eating father. It was a fantastic element added to the novel.