The book I’m talking about today fits squarely in the teenage reading category, but it comes with the territory of teaching teens. However, you can really read these books at any age – even I enjoy reading some YA fiction every now and then. The last book I read with my book club students was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
The book is narrated by a teenage boy named Greg. He’s a senior in high school and has made it a point to not make any real friends in high school. He discovered that the best way to survive high school is to stay on the periphery of pretty much every social group and clique at school. The goal of this is to avoid being lumped into one group so as to not attract criticism from the other groups. However, since he’s friendly with all groups he also can’t be seen as a loner. This all changes when senior year starts and his mom forces him to spend time with Rachel, a girl he knew in his childhood, who has been diagnosed with leukemia.
The book is full of humor and is even described as the “funniest book you’ll ever read about death”. The book explores Greg’s teenage view on friendships, life, and death. Author, Jesse Andrews, does a really good job of depicting Greg as annoying, a little selfish, and a kid who uses humor and comedy to avoid real feelings. Greg can be incredibly frustrating and my students couldn’t stand him – but I think that just makes him seem like a real teenage boy! I think teenagers could completely relate to this book because at the core of this book is a guy who makes dumb decisions and is just trying to figure out life and who he is. I think even some adults can relate to it, like when he talks about how speaking to someone after they’ve been diagnosed with cancer is difficult. What are you supposed to say to them?
I found the book entertaining and something I could see kids relating to on one level or another. There is a biting humor to it that I enjoy, but I suppose it really depends on your sense of humor. Greg’s sense of humor is revealed pretty much on the first page and is seen throughout the whole story. An example of his humor that’s seen really early on is when he talks about how high school is basically the worst place,
“It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. In fact, high school is where we are first introduced to the basic existential question of life: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad?”
It was a quick read and has a mix of humor and sadness – don’t forget this is a book about Greg’s forced friendship with a girl who is dying.
A movie version was released last year and my students and I watched it. There are a bunch of changes that were made in the movie, but it gets the essence of the book.
If you’re looking for a book that will be a quick read, is funny yet filled with an underlying sadness, and you want to read a healthy dose of curse words, then give Me and Earl and the Dying Girl a read!