Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Book Poster Image
Tale of dying teen is full of embarrassing comic moments.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 9 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The novel includes quite a bit of information about leukemia symptoms and treatments, contemporary films and filmmaking, and high school culture.

Positive Messages

Greg actively avoids connecting with friends or groups at school, but he's persuaded by his mother -- and by circumstances out of his control -- to develop a close friendship with Rachel, the "dying girl" of the title. Though in many ways the relationship upsets his "invisible" life just as much as he fears, Rachel's influence also moves Greg and helps propel him down a more productive path. Friendships end up being as crucial to Greg as they can be.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Greg is quite the anti-hero; he's full of self-loathing and is perpetually ashamed of himself. But he does make a valiant effort to cheer the life of a terminally ill friend, which is admirable. Greg's main role models are his friend Earl, who always cuts right through Greg's bull, and his teacher, Mr. McCarthy, who opens his classroom to Greg and Earl at lunchtime and encourages Greg to keep his grades up, even when Greg is having a hard time coping with his role in Rachel's life.

Violence

Earl's house is very chaotic; he and his brothers are prone to angry outbursts. On a couple of occasions, Greg gets hurt at Earl's place -- one incident results in Greg breaking his arm; another time, he gets punched in the stomach.

Sex

No actual sex -- not even kissing. But the teen boys talk and think about it a lot (not surprisingly) and use a lot of crude language. They look at pictures of breasts online, and Greg mentions getting an erection once. They talk about whether girls are hot and who they would want to date, but it's all just in their heads.

Language

In addition to all their crude sex talk ("boobs," "boner," "butt hole," "p---y"), Greg and Earl both curse a fair amount -- especially Earl, who repeatedly asks "The f--k?" and calls everything "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Earl and his brothers have a history of marijuana use, and Earl's mom hides out in her bedroom drinking mojitos and visiting chat rooms. In one incident, Greg and Earl accidentally injest some strong marijuana (they're unaware it's in their food).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that readers are aware from the title that a teen girl is dying in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and there are few things more upsetting than that. Readers and their parents may also be put off by narrator Greg's teen self-centeredness and admitted lack of empathy with his friend Rachel -- or by the characters' liberal use of crude and profane language. But this novel is extremely clever and funny, and though Greg's excessive self-loathing can seem over-the-top, there's something very true in this portrayal of high school chaos and friendship. There is a refernce to Greg's brothers'  marijuana use, and Greg and Earl accidentally injest some.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byBookNerd4Ever December 13, 2014

Quality Read

This book, while it does contain some mature content, is a very worthwhile read. Students today deal with difficult issues on a daily basis, and as an educator... Continue reading
Adult Written byteacherreader314 November 1, 2015

Not for Middle Schoolers

I will admit I have not read the whole book, but I felt I needed to add a review to complement the previous review. I was alerted to this book when I saw a gro... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byJflores14 February 7, 2015

Comedic look at friendship, high school, and cancer

This book is hilarious and depicts high school spot on! It was good and I throughly enjoyed it(red it within one afternoon). CONTENT: Violence: one fistfight... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byCalcabrina March 31, 2012

I laughed the entire time

a little too much swearing for me, but I laughed so hard throughout the entire book. Greg is the funniest antihero ever. I loved it when they accidentally got h... Continue reading

What's the story?

The narrator of ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, Greg Gaines, is a hilariously awkward high school student. He's painfully embarrassed by nearly everything that comes out of his mouth -- even by his own thoughts. The only real friend he has is Earl, a troubled kid whose household is headed by a mom who's mentally checked out and run by Earl's angry, truant brothers. Greg and Earl share a love of movies and filmmaking, and they spend a lot of their time creating remakes/parodies of their favorite films. When Rachel, a girl Greg once had an uncomfortable non-relationship with, becomes sick with leukemia, Greg's mother presses Greg to re-initiate a friendship with her. Greg ends up taking what for him are huge emotional risks to try to cheer Rachel up, especially after Earl decides to let Rachel see their films.

Is it any good?

Greg's perpetual state of shame and self-loathing gets a bit old to other characters in the book, and it does a little to readers as well. The tone of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is practically nihilistic, but the novel is full of hilarious moments and believable characters. It's a testament to Jesse Andrews' talent with comedy and character development that a novel in which a teen is dying can be funny so much of the time. Descriptions of Greg and Earl's films are especially entertaining, and in those cases, Greg's self-deprecating M.O. is very effective.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how realistic Jesse Andrews' portrayal of high school life seems. Does it ring true to your experience?

  • Greg and Earl give what they have, from their own personal talents, to help Rachel. What other sorts of help can a teen give a sick friend?

  • What kind of friend Greg is to Rachel? He argues that he's not a very good friend; what do you think?

Book details

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