Greg took on the life of a high school wanderer. He can fit into any friend group in any situation. He’s the kid who blends into the walls. The one “true” friend he has– if you can call it that– is Earl, and to be honest, they’re more like coworkers. Earl and Greg spend their time making movies, watching movies, and thinking movies. This flows into routine until Greg’s mom makes him resume his childhood friendship with Rachael. Rachael has leukemia, and Greg feels like its become his duty to make her smile or laugh or just something. After treatment stops, the boys make her a film, changing Greg from a inconspicuous wallflower to a director in the spotlight.
This book is hilarious. By the second chapter, I was giggling my head off. And let’s preface this. I read this during my book club’s read-a-thon, so I was curled in blankets on a library floor with about 15 other high school kids. I had to put the book down and breathe slowly until I could read again in some places. I think only one girl noticed my struggles, but it was hard to stop myself from insanely laughing during complete silence.
…it’s just never a good idea to compliment a girl’s boobs. I had to learn this the hard way. Also, it’s somehow worse to draw attention to the fact that there are two boobs. I don’t know why this is, but it’s true. “You have nice boobs.” Bad. “You have two nice boobs.” Worse. “Two boobs? Perfect.” F minus.
I know. I am a 12-year-old boy in my humor. All my favorite books are male protagonists, and this quote had me literally dying. It’s funnier in context, trust me.
Greg’s jokes are the high point of the entire book. To cheer up Rachael, he does really stupid crap and says weird things, but the way he describes his life and the situations he’s placed in is side-splitting. Rachael, though I hate to say it, fades with the setting and becomes a sort of static character throughout the novel. She’s come to terms with her death; she tolerates Greg’s visits. I’m sure if it was from her point of view everything would have been much more morbid. It’s much different to be an outsider to someone dying than to be actually dying.
Yes, it’s another cancer book, but it’s also a cancer book about moving on and just being and understanding that death happens and people get over it. It doesn’t focus on “oh, God, but we’re so young. We’re so in love. This is so tragic…” I know that makes me sound heartless, but it was refreshing. Greg makes it clear that he wouldn’t be helping Rachael if it wasn’t for his mom, and he doesn’t particularly love heading over there because he feels like he lets her down when she isn’t laughing.
Earl takes a bit of a different approach than Greg. He seems more appropriately moved by Rachael’s eminent death, and he shows he cares about her through allowing her to watch their movies and hanging out with her without being forced. But, even still, I wonder if he really cared all that much. He did the socially acceptable thing. He was the type of person who would bring casseroles and give Get Well cards and titter about how awful it is. But did he really care?
Greg’s honesty shows the innate selfishness of most humans in that if it doesn’t directly affect them, it’s not important. Greg also remains a static character which cements the themes that life goes on and death happens. It isn’t like he’s unfazed by the death; he just isn’t sobbing about a girl he didn’t really know.
The characters are what make this book come alive. I didn’t really understand the significance of the boys making movies, nor did I understand their entire relationship. But it worked. They are so typical of everyday life and the routine everyone follows is hardly shifted.
I don’t know, it may parallel with my theory that no one is unique and the chances of changing the world are slim to none. I know it sounds morbid, but if every kid lived up to the “potential” people assure them that they have, than the world would almost be an anarchy of geniuses. Rachael’s footprint on the world wasn’t large or even noticeable, at least to Greg. The author didn’t delve into her personal life because the sickness wasn’t really the main point of the book, just like it wasn’t a main part of Greg’s life.
I loved this book. Just writing the review makes me rethink all it’s content over again, and there are select passages that I’m sure I could read over and still laugh hysterically. Seriously. And I am infamous for my stoic personality. I bookmarked the funny pages and read them to my friends, who only blankly stared back at me and picked another conversation starter.
So in order for all of us to be on the same page and laugh at the same jokes, I highly recommend choosing this book for something refreshing and light but full of meaning.