Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
“I mean, you can know someone is dying on an intellectual level, but emotionally it hasn't really hit you, and then when it does, that's when you feel like shit” - Greg
Like the film, this book really isn't about Rachel (the dying girl). It focuses mainly on Greg (me), the self depreciating downer who hates high school and does everything in his power to skate by as friends with everyone until the worst four years of everyone's life is finally over for him. It is also about Earl (Earl), who is probably my favorite character, even if he has the mouth of a character out of Grand Thief Auto (seriously, does any person really talk like this? It is massively annoying).
I would have loved this book more if Grey wasn't so self depreciating. I mean, good lord. I know a thing or two about being someone who carries around a healthy dose of self doubting, but Grey cranks it all the way up to eleven. And while it makes for a lot of humor in the novel, if you stop to think about it, it also makes you thankful that Greg is only a fictional character, and not someone in real life. But at least I like to think, based on the way that the novel plays out, that at least Greg starts to realize this, perhaps, by the end. Maybe he realizes that a lot of the time, he is the only one standing in his own way (or maybe not).
There is a moment in this story where Earl points out exactly that, and in that moment I totally love Earl. Earl and Greg are maybe, just barely friends - as Earl points out - because Greg doesn't really know how to be a friend. He spends so much time trying to please everyone and keep everyone happy, he can't make friends. Greg points this out early and often throughout the book (I am thankful that I am a bit of the opposite, and don't give a flip what people think 95% of the time - especially in high school). Earl has a few other really special moments in this novel... when he isn't being just plain foulmouthed.
I think the funniest and most self deprecating thing about this book is how it points out that it would make a terrible movie. This is great, because as I read the story, I remembered that they are making/they made a movie out of it. And I'm sure it's going to be toned down to PG-13 in order to target the projected audience. And the whole time I am reading the story, all I can think is:
- They are going to have to cut so much of the dialogue out in the movie, so it is going to lose a lot of the humor
- About 90% of the humor comes from Greg's narrative. And even if they make a voice over styled movie, it is still going to lose at least 50% of the humor and quirk that comes from the narrative.
- Since this novel doesn't really have much in the way of a plot - at least in the terms of what a film industry would think - I am fairly certain the movie is going to suck. Especially with the ending the way it is.
So that is definitely funny as well.
All and all, I am not sure the book lived up to all the hype it has been getting (and I am thinking Greg is 100% right in saying this book will make a terrible movie), but it was definitely worth a read. I feel like Andrews may have tried a little too hard to try to channel what he thinks teenage boys are like (or maybe Greg and Earl are just a little too realistic to be 100% likable), but it isn't too shabby for a debut novel. I'll definitely keep an eye out for his next story.
(Oh, and as a final note, I have to give props for the screenwriting style woven into the story. As someone with a best friend who works in the film industry and got me hooked up with Celtx in college, I could appreciate some of the humor tied into the formatting of this story).