Jesse Andrews’ debut novel to say the least is one of the best coming of age stories. ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ might seem like just another illness-death-romance novel, but it’s so much more than that. Even though the title seems poignant, the book is far from it. Released in 2012, this book was overshadowed by the mammoth success of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green. Andrews received the much-deserved acclaim only after the novel was adapted into a movie of the same name in 2015.
The story is told from the perspective of our protagonist, a socially awkward high school senior, Greg Gaines. He has mastered the art of high school espionage as he walked on the thin line between ‘acquaintance and friend’ with every kid at high school. Avoiding any awkward interactions, group activity, joining cliques or close friendship he had figured out a way to lay low for the four years of hell, that is high school. He was happily leading a life where no one noticed him enough to bother him.
Earl is Greg’s co-worker/childhood friend. As kids Earl and Greg’s obsession for classic foreign movies brought them closer. Inspired by Werner Herzog’s ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’ they started remaking it. Later they continued to remake several other movies with whatever they had at the time. These mock-ups turned out to be pretty horrible so they never showed them to anyone else.
His calm and peaceful life turns upside down when his mother forces him to befriend his classmate Rachel-The girl dying from leukemia. Resentful at first, he visits her and soon finds a friend in Rachel. They help each other to grow into better individuals and face their fears. The story continues to reveal the close bond between the three friends, as the reality of Rachel’s impending death creeps closer by the day.
The author switches between regular novel writing format and script format. This brings us closer to the character’s thoughts and emotions. Andrews frequently breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to the reader, which makes this book immensely funnier. He captures the teenage spirit perfectly in this book. Ranging from crushes to awkward conversation to exam stress to dealing with parents. You will constantly find yourself thinking ‘been there, done that’. Rarely writing dramatic and morose scenes, the author will make you laugh more than cry. Andrews, rather than focusing on the bleak side of battling cancer shows us that companionship in any form is a blessing. Another major theme of this book is that we keep learning about a person even after they pass away.
Even though the book will make you sad at times, you will definitely end it with a big smile on your face. With relatable characters, great story, rib-tickling comedy and unique writing style ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ will definitely leave you satisfied and nostalgic about the “good old days of high school”.