Sunday, January 28, 2018

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews | Relationship Status: It's Complicated!

Me and Early and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Date Read: Jan 7 to 12, 2018
First Published: 2012
Young Adult, Contemporary
Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

It really, really is. When I started out Me and Earl and the Dying Girl I genuinely had so much fun with it, and I was absolutely certain I'm going to continue laughing out-loud until the final page and be blown away. Instead, I slowly stopped laughing, until at the very end I was just relieved it was finally over. 

The thing is, this book's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. At least for me.

The big, loud charm of this book is it's messed up writing style; a mashup of a lot of things, concepts and ideas, in a very authentic manner to what a teenager who is not even very interested in writing a book might do...  which, let's face it, Greg is. It's quirky, unique, and fun. For about the first 50%.

But then, because this is the approach this book takes, it kind of made it a structural mess with no actual plot in sight. For me, who is a plot-driven reader, this made things kind of... difficult. It was hard to invest a lot of time at once in this book's world because I had nothing to anchor myself to. No questions I needed answered or a sense of wondering what are the things to come.

So my first struggle with it was actually reading it instead of just meandering about.

My second struggle was actually enjoying the read once I've decided to get my shit together and properly read it. There is something about actually sitting down and spending two hours straights in Greg's mind that just makes you realize how... this book talks about nothing. And even then, it kind of takes really long to say that it has nothing to say. 

I have read the epilogue, and I still don't know if this book had something to say to me, or if, just as Greg basically tells the reader at the beginning, there is nothing there. So, in big doses, you just kind of start to wonder... why? what's the point of all this?

Not to mention, around the 50% mark, the shine of the concept just... wore off. It totally did. Greg is not a great person. He's not. He's judgmental and weird and interprets life in such a strange way. And while at first, it was delightful, and I laughed at his antics and style, by the end I just didn't enjoy being in his head, no matter the weird side thoughts, script format, bullet points, or whatever new thing he came up with. It just stops being funny.

Now, Me and Earl often resorts to crass jokes and vulgar language. I admit this is not the type of humor I normally enjoy, and after 50% of the novel, I was over it. Completely. Like, I get it. It fits the character that is Greg, and he is the one writing the story. But.. it got annoying. He got annoying. The repetition got annoying; how many times can I read about someone calling themselves stupid, or unable to accept a compliment or filled with the need to fill the silence, before I just kind of want to strangle you so you'd shut up?

Oh, and can we talk about his dumb and stupid jokes and why the hell everyone is laughing at them?? While his narration is often hilarious, the jokes Greg tell out loud baffled me, mostly because they're successful. Like, wtf? I don't know what you Americans find funny, but none of that shit would fly in my high school. I guess I should at least be thankful Greg is self away of this, to a point.

Speaking of which... The character of Greg is really odd. In most cases when people think one thing and do another, it's for the worse. In Greg's case, he thinks terrible things but does really nice things, even if for all the wrong reasons.

But I'm not sure if that's because that's who he is, or because he is a caricature of sorts, same as all the other people in this novel. Every character is defined by maybe one or two traits, and that's basically what that person is for the rest of the novel - Hot, Smart, Sick, Crazy, Goth, etc. And most of it is hecka exaggerated, especially the way teenage boys think and act. I mean, my brother is in that Phase right now. I'm living this shit.

Now, this makes sense. A teenage is writing this story, and sometimes, especially as self-absorbed teens, people aren't really people. They're That or This or Whatever. That being said, I kind of hoped Greg would stop seeing them like that at some point, but that didn't really happen. I guess if it did, then this novel would have something to say and that's a no-no.

Okay. So, basically, even though a lot of my problems make sense in the context of the premise, it wasn't enough for me. Being UNIQUE is not enough to be GOOD. Being INTERESTING is not enough to equate IMPORTANT. And so, even though I wish my reading experience had stayed constantly in the great zone, it didn't.

I needed more; more SUBSTANCE, more PLOT, more of a REASON to the entirety of it. 

And yes, sure. The point is that there is no point, but that's just not the type of story I can connect to. It's entirely on me, but it's also the way things just are. 

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