But because I’m a writer, I must break it down, get into it, complicate things and what not.
Here’s why this book is good.
1. The Language
The language never dulls, it never brightens, it never does anything but lull on in Greg’s painfully cynical, somewhat unseeing, teenaged monotone. And it’s brilliant. From start to finish this book had me laughing because, while deeply oblivious, Greg is inherently smart. Right down to the stark appreciation of movies everyone else hates, because for some reason, only in that aspect of this wilderness he lives in that is really like a deserted parking lot, does he have the capability to consciously notice more than the surface of something. And you have to love the way he talks about himself. His self deprecation, Earl’s self deprecation, even Rachel’s self deprecation, the work is masterful because it’s all so blissfully, ignorantly, unknowingly teenaged.
2. The Storytelling
This story is told in a multitude of ways. Screenplays, possible outcomes (with headlines), and regular, 1st person, teenaged monotone.
The screenplays, for me, are what made this book so enjoyable. Because it’s unusual and on top of that, you will never read screenplay snippets like them ever in the entire existence of your life. Yes, while stupid and more often than not, never coming together like I’m sure they planned, there’s something really advanced about them. I don’t know what it is, but when you’re reading the screenplays you just have this keen sense of enlightenment, like, for some odd reason you would trust these kids if they held your future in their hands.
And while the pacing was odd and the dying girl wasn’t as much a part of it as one would think, it wasn’t really noticeable because the storytelling, the way it changed up styles and the way Greg went on and never sugar-coated anything, just pushed you through this book at this pace that demanded you give up your hopes of digesting everything.
3. The Characters
Good god, this kid, what an idiot. Really truly, he is such a dumb ass. And not dumb in the normal sense of the word, because as I said, he really is quite ingenious, but dumb in the “I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who matters” type of way. Like, you know that one kid that goes on about how perhaps the world is all made up and you’re just a figment of his imagination? Greg. It’s Greg.
He’s an idiot. But he has redeeming qualities, like, case and point, he knows he’s a fucking idiot. He knows he’s selfish. And he will be the first to tell you. He’s only hanging out with the dying girl because she’s the dying girl and you want to hate him when he goes on about how depressed her crisis makes him feel, but you can’t because it’s so real, and because he already hates himself enough for it, but he can’t break out of the state of despondency either way.
And the way that he talks about himself and others, the way he does it with this callous disregard for whether or not one can be reprimanded for their thoughts, is why you will fall in love with this book. You’re not gonna date Greg, and if you hope to date Greg, you have daddy issues. But you want to be like Greg. You want to know what it’s like to lack that much human emotion, even though, I don’t honestly think he does, I just think he’s lost touch with himself. But he’s in high school, so you can’t blame him, and not only that, at the end of high school, when everyone’s in that, like, pre-apocalyptic sense of mind, running around, arms flailing, hoping to latch onto some miraculous realization of “OOOOOOHHHHH THAT’S WHAT I’M ON THE EARTH TO DO.”
Earl kicks ass. He’s black but not like stereotypical black, like yes, his house is a perpetual war zone, and his younger brother is, like, practically a gang leader, but Earl is a revolutionary. Earl has the tendency to be the bad ass, but, intellectually. He might beat you up, but if he’s beating you up, it isn’t for no good reason, it’s probably because he’s trying to wake you up from your existential crisis, which is why he is friends, well not friends, they sort of love-hate each other, but there for Greg. Because Greg is in said existential crisis.
Earl doesn’t get enough credit. He has his shit together even though he appears to lack togetherness of said shit. He gets it, and when you’re reading about him, you’re once again overcome with this thought that… is he god? We may never know.
Poor Rachel. What a precious little soul she is.
You’re going to love Rachel. That’s what I know for sure. She knows that Earl is only hanging out with her because she’s dying, but does she care? No. Because that’s who she is. She is a wide receiver of sorts, this key player that doesn’t get enough credit for taking the brunt of what life can give to people. And even though you sort of turn into Greg by the end of the book, really annoyed with her for giving up this battle she has with leukemia–but of course, not many people know how hard it actually is–you really do stay on Team Rachel throughout.
Here’s what’s going to make you Team Rachel. The fact that she watches, digests, and watches again, all of these shitty fucking movies that Greg and Earl make. Because she’s the type of girl you want to be. She’s this supportive, commanding, irrevocable leader of the girl scouts. Like. She slays. She is such a trooper and the fact that she gets something from these movies that even Earl and Greg don’t get anything from, makes you want to be her friend, sit on her bed, and tell her all your deepest darkest thoughts.
Rachel is awesome. Anything otherwise can be left at the door.
I need to just give Jesse Andrews, the author, a round of applause. What an awesome job he did transforming himself into the A-typical cynical teenager. He did justice to that part, which seems sort of impossible, but he did. And even with the added dying girl and the non-stereotypical black kid, something about this book just worked. That’s it. This book worked. And that’s why I can’t take a single point away. Because, as a writer, I know how hard it is to get and stay in character, and Jesse did it, and not only that, he made it seem as though the book wasn’t edited, even though it was, and it never tripped up. It never fell out of the monotone. It was well-imagined, bright, and deeply satisfying.
IDK… but Jesse Andrews is something… he is definitely something.
And The Haters, Jesse’s newest book just came out! So after you read this one, definitely check that one out. I will be too.