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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
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