Nothing like two nine-hour road trips to catch up on your reading, amIright? As soon as I finished Shopaholic to the Stars and wrote my real-time, stream-of-consciousness blog post from the car, I started on Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. This lovely book-turned-movie is being compared to The Fault In Our Stars, but I must say they are extraordinarily different — whereas the majority of TFIOS makes my entire body and soul ache, the majority of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl just makes me laugh.
Gregory Gaines is finally a senior at Benson High School in Pittsburgh, and he has perfected the art of fitting in everywhere and nowhere. He gives an incredibly funny and accurate breakdown of what I imagine high school is currently like (I’ve been out for almost 10 years, after all). He also introduces us to his highly amusing family, consisting of an extremely overbearing mother, a space cadet of a father, a psychotic teenage sister named Gretchen (“whose main interests are fighting with my mom and not eating whatever’s for dinner”) and a silly younger sister named Grace. (His mom gave them all names that start with “Gr” so that combined with their not-very-Jewish last name, they’d all be “surprise Jews”.) After the first day of senior year, an awesome day because it did not suck, Greg’s world comes crashing down when his mom asks him to befriend — you guessed it — a dying girl.
Rachel is Greg’s semi-ex-girlfriend from their Hebrew school days, and her mom has just informed Greg’s mom (to be played by the fabulous Connie Britton, yay!) that she has been diagnosed with a very bad form of leukemia. The moms encourage Greg to spend time with Rachel again because his twisted sense of humor may be one of the only things that can cheer her up, and he grudgingly agrees. Greg must now split his precious time between maintaining the reputation he has spent a lifetime trying to build, watching and creating strange films with his only other friend Earl (the best character in the book, in my humble opinion) and finding new ways to make Rachel laugh.
The major difference between this and TFIOS is the tone of the narrator — Greg is extremely angry, insecure and self-deprecating (at times a little too much so). Also, this book is not about cancer or a person with cancer or a romance between people who both have cancer, it’s about a very confused teenage boy. Greg does not experience deep emotions or realize great life lessons during his time spent with a young female cancer patient; he actually has no idea what to do with his feelings about the whole thing, and as a result, because he is a teenage boy after all, he hurts a lot of people, including himself. I have a feeling the movie will be a lot sappier than the book, and will make the relationship between Greg and Rachel more more romantic, but such is life.