It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl.
This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life.
I have apparently been a humor kind of mood lately, which is unusual because I’m usually more of an into fantasy and adventure. This was nice though. It was an extremely different cancer story. Not only was it not sappy, but it was laugh out loud funny.
I was on vacation in Oshkosh, Wisconsin with my bestie, E, when I bought this book. (Huzzah for only buying one book this trip! — Oh, wait. That’s a lie. I bought two and was given one for a very early birthday present. My bad. Continue with the review.) I couldn’t put it down. I got almost no sleep between spending much needed time with E and the step-hubby and reading this book. If I had been home I would have devoured it in a day.
Greg is a character who sits on the border of lovable/sweet and stereotypical teenage boy, which makes him a better main character in my opinion. Earl, on the other hand is a foul-mouthed and aggressive boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He is also the character who is more tenderhearted.
What I love about this story is that it’s not what you expect. No one falls in love. No one’s life makes a 180. Essentially, there are no miracles. It’s about a boy who blunders his way through a situation he’s forced into. Does his life change? Yes. Of course it does. That’s what lives do. Does he go from a mediocre student who has no ambition to a straight-a student who is going to reach for the stars? No. All of the changes in the story are realistic.
Earl and his family are that little bit of surreal that every story needs. They are just so aggressively ridiculous, but everything the brothers do is aggressive.
What didn’t I like? I wouldn’t say there was anything I disliked. I would just say that for a book about a dying girl, there was very little of her in it. Part of me loved this. All books are usually about the person telling it, but books with characters who are dying tend to try to make it more about the sick person even if they aren’t the narrator. This book is blatantly more about Greg, Earl and their movies and how Rachel’s illness affects those things. She sometimes seems like less of a character and more of a catalyst to keep things moving. Part of me also feels like Greg’s softening and crying at the end was too strong for how little he was actually affected by Rachel as a character.
Rating: 4.5 out 5 quills. I would have liked to known Rachel just a tad more so she was more of a character than a device.