I have just recently completed the novel, Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, a 295 page realistic fiction story. This book is written by Jesse Andrews and was published on March 1st of 2012. Jesse Andrews is currently a 35 year old novelist along with being a screenwriter. Andrews was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania. He has graduated from both Schenley High School and Harvard University, resulting in him currently being based in Boston, Massachusetts. Andrews has only written 2 books so far. The second book he has written is called The Haters. Which was published in April of 2016. Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, obviously his first book, has won the 2012 Cybils Award for young adult fiction. This story has also been turned into a movie, and Jesse Andrews wrote the feature film adaption as well.
Me, being the “unique” reader that I am, saw the trailer for the movie, realized that it was a novel, and decided that it would be sad enough for me to enjoy. While I did enjoy this story, it most definitely was not was I was expecting.
Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl is based off of a 17 year old named Greg. Greg doesn’t exactly fit it, but he doesn’t stand out either. But after witnessing the tension between all of the social groups in his school, he knows that he does not want to be one of the nerds being picked on by the school’s jocks. So, he has found a way to be included in every single group, yet he has just about no friends. No friends, besides Earl. Earl Jackson comes from a poor and dysfunctional family that lives of “the wrong side of town.” Greg and Earl have been friends since their childhood and still spend most their time together by making remakes of their favorite movies or their own original movies. This is all that Greg wants to do, make films and relax, but one day after school, he gets some news. Gregs mother has informed him that Rachel Kershner, an old friend from hebrew school, has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Although Greg refused at first, his mother had finally convinced him to call Rachel. After Rachel kept pushing greg away and his mother refused to accept that, Greg and Rachel finally had to meet up together. Neither of them expected this, but they ended up really enjoying eachothers company. The more they were around each other, the more they wanted to see each other. But Greg snaps into reality and realizes that nobody knows what is going to happen to Rachel, considering her illness. So, one day, Greg decides to bring Earl along to meet Rachel. This relationship of 3 takes all of the readers on a journey whether is be about film making or their heartwarming bond that could never be forgotten.
I noticed that Andrews described highschool very stereotypically. There is a very basic way that high school is displayed on television and just in the media in general. It’s that stereotype this that there are hundreds of different social groups in school and that none of them would ever just be civil with each other. And that is exactly what is shown in this book. For example, Greg says: “And if a jock. God forbid, witnesses you hobnobbing with theater kids, he will immediately assume you are gay, and there is no force on earth greater than the fear jocks have homosexuals. None. It’s like the Jewish fear of Nazis, except the complete opposite with regard to who is beating the crap out of whom. So I guess it’s more like the Nazi fear of Jews.” (pg. 47) Although I have not been to highschool yet, I have been able to observe and witness it. And even in elementary school, there were different friend group, but there is never anything to the extent of the way these stories describe it, especially when it comes to the things that teachers and students do.
I would say that the theme of this story could definitely deal with insecurities. Insecurities are something that everybody struggles with. Even the most confident people on Earth have something that they don’t love about themselves. There are so many things that people can be insecure about in themselves, but that is the point. Insecurities are self inflicted. The feeling of never being good enough. The feeling of hating yourself enough to cover everything up in public to make people think the way that you want them to. And the moments where you are looking at yourself in the mirror and picking out each thing that you need to fix. That is coming from within. And when it comes to Greg, you get to see someone who isn’t very insecure, he just isn’t confident yet. For instance, he says: “I’m terminally awkward and I have a face like a little groundhog. I just feel like, you know, for a kid like me in high school best case scenario, just survive. You know? Survive without creating any mortal enemies or hideously embarrassing yourself forever.” (Pg. 136) While this may sound extremely insecure, he also says something shortly after that: “This book probably makes it seem like I hate myself and everything I do. But that’s not totally true. I mostly just hate every person I’ve ever been. I’m actually fine with myself right now.” (Pg. 139) It is complicated, but for Greg, it is more of a feel of an unsettled feeling and a place where you haven’t found yourself.
Something that I did not understand was why the author would write about death in such a way. For example, at the end of the book, while George was wrapping everything up, he said: “Forget it. For me personally, things are in no way more meaningful because I got to know Rachel before she died. If anything, things are less meaningful. All right?” (Pg. 256) This truly isn’t the best example of what I am trying to explain, but it can give you an idea. When somebody dies, you don’t try to find meaning or purpose in it, you don’t just shrug it off. When you lose somebody, it hurts. It’s indescribable. And for Greg and Earl to be upperclassman, I found most of the thing that they were saying to be slightly immature. This story was full of them making unnecessary jokes or just doing the wrong thing at the wrong time especially when it comes to death. Maybe some of this was slightly purposeful. I do think that he did to show some forms of denial. And denial is very realistic, just not to this extent. This leads me into my final thoughts on the book
To be quite honest, I found myself laughing out loud in public while reading this book. And that this is something that I don’t think any book has ever made me do. But, it was not what I was looking for. Everybody has or will deal with death. Death is inevitable. We are all on a long journey just to lead to that. And death hurts. Whether you are dealing with the loss of somebody else, or just the thought of death, it hurts. And pain is pain. No matter what you are in pain about, not even including the issue of death, it’s a terrible feeling. That feeling of emptiness in your gut and how you will never be able to escape it. The feeling of being broken and numb yet having the ability to feel so many emotions at the same time. That is pain, and I honestly don’t believe that Andrews did a very good job being able to display that hurt. This book was a 6 out of 10. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to read a simple book that could be turned into something so complex.
1 thought on “Tessa Pavia Letter Essay #3: Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl”
Great blog post, Tessa. And I agree with your assessment of the disparity between the way different groups interact in real life in school and the way they are stereotyped in contemporary young adult literature; it’s actually one of the things that has turned me off from that particular genre. And I wonder why it’s so prevalent? Is it that the writers are actually very distanced from the subject matter with which they are writing? Or do they think by doing that they are endearing themselves to their audience? Writers, more than anyone, should understand that people and social groups are complicated.