Paul Meets Great Reads – Me, Earl & The Dying Girl

I love to read.

Finding a book which pulls you into the story, connects you to the characters and effectively make you part of the story, sometimes is difficult. I’ve read a fair few books that have not left much of an effect on me as a reader, and I’ve read some great books which have left a massive impression on me as both a reader and a writer. The ‘Paul Meets Great Reads’ sections of my blog will give me that opportunity to share with you my Great Reads and a couple of recommendations that I think you may enjoy similar to the featured book.

‘Me, Earl & The Dying Girl’ – Jesse Andrews (2012)

‘A Little Friendship Never Killed Anyone’

This is the quote fixed a top the cover of my copy of Jesse Andrew’s debut novel, accompanied with the cast of the movie of this ‘tie-in edition’, and to put it quite simply it most certainly doesn’t.

The books narrative follows self isolated loner Greg Gaines as he is forced to remove himself from his insanely low profile and make friends with a girl who has cancer at the behest of his mother. Sure, it sounds like your standard coming of age novel that have been published in recent years and there is no possible way that the ‘dying girl’ will die, why would you have a key point in the plot in the title? The answer – Because this isn’t a normal coming of age novel.

It is a novel about cancer from an external perspective and how a completely self loathing character learns about other people, friendship and relationships from Rachel, who is suffering from a horrible disease.

Rachel: The Film

This book spoke to me in a number of ways, firstly through the character Greg, who along with his co-worker (not friend) Earl make their own spoof versions of classic cinema. Greg is someone who enjoys films, and not just modern films, classics from around the world. The author Jesse Andrews’ uses this to characterization to his advantage by having certain sections of the book play out in a movie script, which adds surprising humor and an infinite amount of depth to the scene without you realizing.

Andrews’ also has Greg make lists mentally about the outcome of various situations, which I’ll admit, I do all the time and some of the things which are presented in Greg’s mind are pretty hilarious.

Finally, Greg’s reluctance throughout the novel to commit to calling Earl or Rachel his friends, or even make the movie for Rachel, is completely palpable. Throughout the book, we are told that Greg and Earl are co-workers, by Greg himself, but Earl categorically refers to them as friends at several points in the book. This leads him down the path of self denial, and what he denies himself of is friendship and affection, the real reason why this is up for debate, but I believe that Andrews writes like this as Greg is ultimately afraid he will not be accepted and therefore left alone, which explains why he hasn’t integrated into any social group.

This argument is given further weight by Greg’s reluctance. Greg’s reluctance to make the movie for Rachel (the movie which is the subject of much of the book), as Greg proclaims himself that he never agreed to make the movie. Towards the end of the novel, the movie is shown in front of the entire school, which causes Greg to lash out as the movie isn’t well received, confirming the idea that Greg fears rejection most of all… Now I can relate to that.

The Tragedy of Friendship

Throughout the book, Andrews’ writes a variety of scenarios in which Greg & Earl attempt to make the movie for Rachel, through different techniques. There failure to find a method in which to portray the movie which they are filming mirrors the decline of Rachel’s health. As each version gets crossed off the list, Rachel’s condition unfortunately gets worse, and by the time the movie is shown in front of the entire school, it is not the version which either Greg or Earl wanted as it is a mash up of all the previous ideas.

It is a simple, yet surprisingly emotional reveal, when Andrews’ reveals that Rachel passed away. Yet her dying months, and her untimely death, has done nothing but helps to ultimately change Greg, his grades suffered but he understood the meaning of caring for someone other than himself, and after everything, knowing that Rachel enjoyed all of the movies that he and Earl made (yes, even A Sockwork Orange) inspires him to pursue his career in film-making.

A Worn Down Cover

Now my copy of the book is getting a little worn down, after all I have read it about four times in the last 2 years, but sometimes a good heartfelt story is what you need. I rate this debut novel highly, as it not only shows great promise for Jesse Andrews’ as a writer, but it shows the reader a different perspective on life through a character that at the start, even I thought I was going to dislike. But Greg is all of us, he is the part of us that is afraid of rejection and afraid of losing someone.

3 other books similar to ‘Me, Earl & the Dying Girl’

What do you think of ‘Me, Earl & the Dying Girl’? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or even add your own recommendations. I’m going to leave you now with a funny clip from the film adaptation of the book (a tremendous adaptation of the book as well), from one of the many times that Greg visits Rachel, although this time with a little something extra.

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