Right about now, the whole world seems to be filled with doom and gloom. Many people in America fear for the future of our nation, and some Americans actually fear for their own futures. So this would be the perfect time to recommend a dystopia, right?!? Wrong! As far as I am concerned, now is the time to find every bit of levity and hope we can cling to. So, then why am I reviewing a book with “the dying girl” in the title? Because, believe it or not, this is one of the funniest and most hope-inspiring books I’ve ever read. I once said that Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon was the “funniest book about kids with cancer” that I’d ever read, but I think this book actually topped it… Crazy!
Greg is a bit of a social outcast, but he doesn’t mind. In fact, he actually spent his entire high school career engineering ways to associate and get along with all of the different cliques without actually becoming a part of any one clique himself. His one true friend, whom he prefers to call his “co-worker,” is a kid named Earl. They actually do work together, in a sense, because they make films. But most people would recognize that, despite coming from drastically different families and socio-economic backgrounds, Greg and Earl are kindred spirits who became best friends as they bonded over Greg’s father’s eclectic film collection.
Where does the “dying girl” come in?!? Greg’s mom finds out that Greg’s childhood friend, Rachel, has been diagnosed with leukemia and insists that he call her. It’s super awkward, and neither he nor Rachel seem to want to hang out at first, but his mom insists that he keep trying because it’s the right thing to do. As it turns out, introducing Earl (and the films Greg and Earl have made) to Rachel helps to rebuild their friendship and to provide Rachel with some joy and distraction as she endures chemotherapy. Jesse Andrews completely nails it by balancing teen angst, raw emotion, and what some people might consider “inappropriate” humor that is sure to appeal to even reluctant readers.