Featured Book: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

This post is a part of an original series created by librarians/media specialists across Central Minnesota featuring books. Please share your take on books you have read recently. If you have a book you would like to showcase, please send your review to our offices

MeAndEarlTitle: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews

Review by Maria Burnham, Sauk Rapids-Rice High School Library Media Specialist

This book was on the YALSA 2013 Top Ten Best Young Adult Books, and  I will keep the book on my shelves, but it’s not one I’d recommend to just anyone.

I’m going to start by saying that this is the perfect book for a certain type of reader.  That reader was not me, so I only gave the book 3 stars out of 5.  I originally picked up this book because the summary reminded me a bit of The Fault in Our Stars, a very popular book in my library right now.  I’m always looking for those “If you liked this book, then you should read…” kind of novels, and since the storyline is about high school senior, Greg, who befriends an acquaintance from his past, Rachel, as she is battling leukemia, I thought there might be a connection between the way the reader experiences teen friendships throughout illnesses.  I was wrong.  Me and Earl and the Dying Girl ‘s plotline is, in fact, about a friendship formed thanks to Rachel’s leukemia and Greg’s obligation to make her feel better through laughter while she’s battling her terminal disease.  However, this book reads in short, simple sentences, the characters are quite flat, making it hard for me to feel connected to the story, and the language in this book makes me cautious in getting the book in the hands of the right reader.  The Fault in Our Stars read nothing like what I just described.  In Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, there is much swearing  from both the narrator and his crude, immature friend, Earl.  Many times in the book, sex is referenced and derogatory remarks about female body parts are frequent conversations, mainly from the direction of Earl.  I have no doubt that some teen boys think and talk this way; however, I do think that this book greatly increases the chances of students and/or parents feeling offended by this book.  After all, I was a bit offended and I’m an open-minded reader. At the end of the book, we see another side of Earl; however, his redeemable qualities in the end were not enough to salvage the plotline.

I do believe this book is worth having on my shelves, but I will be sure to be aware of who is picking it up.