Me and Earl and the dying girl – book review

About the book

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is American Jesse Andrews’ 2012 debut smash hit. It was released in March 2012 in hardcover and May 2013 in paperback.

Leading characters

Greg Gaines

Greg Gaines is the main character and protagonist. He is awkward, self-conscious and has low self-esteem. His main goal is to get though high school without getting close to anyone, whist still being friends with everyone. This is to avoid getting bullied. During his free time, Greg enjoys making film parodies with his co-worker Earl.

Rachel

Rachel Kushner was one of Greg’s old friends, but they stopped talking to each other as they grew older. She is diagnosed with Leukemia, which is what made the beginning of the new friendship she Greg and Earl shared. She has frizzy hair and is described as an average teenager. She is a strong character, who helps Greg “be himself”.

Earl

Earl Jackson is Greg’s co-worker. They make parodies together and is Greg’s only close friend. He is funny and enjoys making jokes. He is compassionate and reflects a lot on the situation both Greg and Rachel are in.

Madison

Madison is Greg’s crush. She only appear and makes a major difference in the book when she convinces Greg to make a film dedicated to Rachel.She has a very benevolent and lovely character,. She takes pity on Greg and invites him to prom, though he doesn’t show up.

Story plot

Greg Gaines is a senior at Benson High School. A social loner, he navigates high school life by gaining everyone’s acquaintance but staying clear of any particular clique. His only real friend is Earl Jackson, a fellow student from a poor and broken family. Greg and Earl have been friends since childhood but Greg will only (cautiously) claim that they are coworkers. The two spend most of their time making films together. Greg and Earl keep their filming ventures a secret from their peers, fearing ridicule for their mediocre projects.

One day, Greg’s mother tells him that his childhood friend, Rachel Kushner, is diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Greg’s mother wants him to rekindle their friendship and make her feel better. Although Greg had only befriended Rachel to try to get closer to her more attractive friend, Leah Katzenberg, he realizes that he cannot argue with his mother and calls her.

One day at school, Greg gets a text from Rachel saying that she would be starting chemotherapy the next day. Although he and Earl are accidentally on drugs at that moment, they make it to Rachel’s, where Greg introduces her to Earl. The three go out for ice-cream, and Earl invites Rachel to watch some of their films. Greg is furious but does not stop him.

At school, Greg begins to fall back in his studies and soon comes close to failing all of his subjects. He is pressured by his parents to seriously apply to a college, but Greg is unsure of which one to choose. He discusses it with Rachel, who tells him that he should apply to a film school. Meanwhile, word gets around Benson High that Greg and Rachel have become close. Madison Hartner, Greg’s long-time crush, comes to hear of his films from Rachel and persuades him to make a movie for Rachel. Greg and Earl come up with different ideas (including documentary footage, confessionals, and puppetry), and the end result, entitled Rachel the Film, is a mashup of everything they try out. To Greg’s horror, the film is shown to the entire school during an assembly. Upset by this, Greg stops going to school altogether and scratches all the DVDs of his films.

A few days after the screening, Rachel dies. Greg goes to Earl to talk about it and finds out that he too destroyed his copies of their movies, and is done with film-making for good. Greg tells him that he would be applying to film school instead of college. Earl is opposed to this, saying that Rachel’s death shouldn’t be affecting his future plans.

In the epilogue, Greg reveals that he wrote the book as an explanation to his prospective college, the University of Pittsburgh, about why he fell back on schoolwork during his last school year. After his conversation with Earl, he had decided to retire from film-making, but on writing down his experience, decides that he shouldn’t. He realizes that he was always unhappy because he was trying to be someone he wasn’t, but was content when he was just himself. He makes up his mind to apply to film school within the next six months. The book ends with him wondering if he should put Rachel in his next film.

Review

The book centers around the life of Greg and his two close acquaintances; Earl and Rachel. Jesse chose to write a meaningful and strong book, about harsh themes and life itself. He chose to illuminate death and the life around it but put it under the disguise and cover of a comedic book. Whilst enjoying the book Jesse has written, you are simultaneously learning important lessons in life and how to deal with them.

Rachel, one of the main characters in the book, is slowly dying. This is something Greg, the protagonist must learn to deal with early on in the book. The way Rachel choses to live her life contrasts with how Greg lives. Greg is in constant fear of rejection and bullying. He doesn’t embrace anyone as his friend but is acquainted to everyone. Rachel lives life to the fullest, enjoying her true friends and leaving those who doesn’t matter. Jesse was trying to show the reader the way life should be enjoyed, and to not waste any seconds of the life they have been given.

The book also battles low self-esteem. Greg doesn’t believe in himself and doesn’t know what or who he is. Throughout the book, the reader gets bombarded by the though process Greg has in each situation he interacts with people. Close to the ending of the book, we see a change. When Rachel dies, Greg starts reflecting, and choses to change how he lives life, and how he views himself and others.

Categories: Book Reviews