Review: “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is Refreshingly Funny

Caitlin Muchow ‘18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

In his senior year of high school, Greg Gaines likes to think of himself as a master of social espionage—able to disappear into the brickwork of the high school social scene at will—rather than just a friendless loser. He does have a couple of friends, however—Earl, with whom he makes terrible remakes of weird films. And since his mom found out about the leukemia diagnosis of his childhood friend, Rachel, she’s forced him to rekindle his friendship with her as well. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews was published on March 1, 2012 by Harry N. Abrams and was recently made into a film released on June 12.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is written in second person as Greg attempts to tell the story of how he spent his senior year trying to be the kind of friend a dying girl needs, and often failing miserably. The style is very different and interesting because Greg addresses the reader directly and comments on the story he tells. Additionally, many of the scenes with dialogue are written in script format to reference Greg’s preference for writing scripts.

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" Cover. Source: Abrams Books
“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” Cover. Source: Abrams Books

This book’s greatest asset is definitely its humor. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is sometimes crude but often laugh-out-loud funny, something you definitely wouldn’t expect from a book featuring a girl dying of cancer. One moment, the characters are talking about chemo, and the next, about hummus. Even the chapter titles are funny, which is refreshingly different from most books that only have numbers rather than chapter titles. The humor mostly comes from Greg, who, when explaining how his Jewish mother works for a kibbutz in Israel, suggests a new slogan for the country: “Israel. Where Virginity Goes to Die.™” This book is also fun to read as a native Pittsburgher because author Jesse Andrews is from Pittsburgh. The novel is set in Pittsburgh and makes a lot of great references to the city, such as all the local neighborhoods mentioned and the use of “Pittsburghese,” such as the term “yinzer” (a Pittsburgh resident).

This book is definitely different from what any potential reader might expect. For a book about cancer, it is clean of any sentimentality. There are no big moments of discovery or heartwarming inspiration; this isn’t a book full of obvious answers to life’s great questions. However, if looked at closely, the reader can definitely find meaning in it, even if it’s not the kind they expect.

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