Here’s the thing: I can’t remember the last book that made me laugh so hard, so often. And I’m talking out loud, tear-producing laughter. The kind of laughter that prompts whoever is nearest to inquire in a suspect manner, Is it really that funny? A question that, due to residual laughter, can only be answered with a nod.¹
This book felt a lot like life, with all of its messy, uncertain, perception-altering moments. Greg, our hides-behind-humor protagonist, is upfront about not being the best human being, about not always thinking the right thing, or doing the right thing, and he tries to learn from it (kind of), but the lessons don’t always take. And he’s honest about that, too. Which was all kinds of refreshing.
Regarding the Dying Girl of the title: If you’re worried about being emotionally manipulated by that aspect of the story, don’t be. (I mean, I experienced pangs of that misgiving myself, which is why it took years and Jon Bernthal² to get me here. (I should probably mention that I watched the movie³ first, and then, almost immediately after, went and got the book.)) Rachel’s cancer diagnosis and treatment rounds are not the focus here, and the view from these pages is nothing like what you see in John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, for all that the two books may seem superficially similar.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
“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.”
¹ This was my experience (after which I rethought bringing the book along to read during my lunch break). Your mileage may vary.
² He plays Greg’s history teacher, Mr. McCarthy. Respect the research!
³ Jesse Andrews also wrote the screenplay, which probably has a lot to do with the movie being so enjoyable.