Book Review: Me & Earl & The Dying Girl
“If after reading this book you come to my homeand brutally murder me, I do not blame you.”
I've been debating where to begin on this book review, so I thought I'd start with a disclaimer: the narrator is a typical 18-year-old boy with a foul mouth and habit of talking about women's bodies. If you're a dude, nothing sounds out of the ordinary. If you're a woman, you will feel like you've wandered into a frat house or locker room, and you'll want to wash the narrator's mouth out with soap.
Crass is as gracious an adjective as I can muster.
And, if you're like me, despite your best efforts, you'll laugh.
Yes, indeed. This book made me laugh, often and loudly.
What's even more ridiculous, at the very end (spoiler alert) I even cried when the "dying girl" died.
Technically this is a "young adult" novel, but I can't recommend you give it to the young adults in your home. In my case, the "young adult" gave it to me, so I was unnerved for an entirely different set of reservations about questionable parenting.
First, let's talk about the narrator, Greg. His relationship with his family is classic high school stuff. He's convinced his mom is out to ruin his life and isn't sure how his father is employed since he does no work. The family owns a psychotic cat, and Greg manages to weave its existence into much of his writing.
“It's like when a kitten tries to bite something to death. The kitten clearly has the cold-blooded murderous instinct of a predator, but at the same time, it's this cute little kitten, and all you want to do is stuff it in a shoebox and shoot a video of it for grandmas to watch on YouTube.”
Greg also has sister whom he doesn't really dig.
“She’s fourteen, which means that any kind of normal interaction with her is doomed to failure. We used to be pretty good friends, but fourteen-year-old girls are psychotic. Her main interests are yelling at Mom and not eating whatever is for dinner.”
He also hates high school
“So in order to understand everything that happened, you have to start from the premise that high school sucks. Do you accept that premise? Of course you do. It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. In fact, high school is where we are first introduced to the basic existential question of life: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad?”
If you're getting the idea that Greg can be pretty miserable, you're on the right track. But still he has a crazy amount of self-awareness, particularly when he's failing at something, like talking to people.
“I entered Excessive Modesty Mode. Nothing is stupider and more ineffective than Excessive Modesty Mode. It is a mode in which you show that you’re modest by arguing with someone who is trying to compliment you. Essentially, you are going out of your way to try to convince someone that you’re a jerk.”
He knows he has an underdeveloped emotional capacity, which, like every other random observation, he's not afraid of detailing.
“I think I might have a disorder where your emotions frequently malfunction and a lot of the time you're sitting there feeling something inappropriate. It should be called Emotional Moron Disorder”
His relationship with Earl and the dying girl is where the narrative really shines, but it's also where the expletives really stack up. I'll hold off quoting those sections and instead show you a few of his truth comments.
“One thing I’ve learned about people is that the easiest way to get them to like you is to shut up and let them do the talking. Everyone likes to talk about themselves.”
“This book probably makes it seem like I hate myself and everything I do. But that’s not totally true. I mostly just hate every person I’ve ever been. I’m actually fine with myself right now."
Speaking of which, I kind of hate myself for enjoying my time in the high school boys' locker room, but there you have it.