Posted by ericmikols
I think I’m learning I don’t care for Young Adult books. Which is too bad, since I’m in Youth Services at the library I work at, but books are like, twenty percent of my job. Math is even less.
The amount of YA books I’ve liked is not large. I Am Not a Serial Killer, Cinder and Adrift are the only ones that pop into my head. The rest have been fine, but not for me. I don’t think that’s a rag on the world of YA. I mean, I’m in my thirties. Some people love Young Adult books as they get older, some don’t. I’m in the “don’t” category.
I say all that to preference my dislike of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. But, on the other hand, I don’t think I would have liked this as a teen. I would have found it pretentious. I was a wise soul, as a teen. That’s why I didn’t date a lot. That’s the only reason I didn’t date. The. Only. Reason.
Again, I didn’t like it. Andrews writes in a knowingly subversive style that is never as clever as he thinks it is. The main character, Greg, is constantly giving asides about the story, the structure, the roles of cliques in high school and it never worked for me. When Greg is recruited to hang out with Rachel, a former friend who is diagnosed with leukemia, the story wants to prove it’s not a meaningful one. Greg tells us he didn’t learn anything from Rachel’s leukemia. “This is not your typical teen drama!” the pages scream. Unfortunately, Andrews goes out of his way to remind us of this throughout the book that it becomes true.
As the story takes more series turns, I found it hard to care because I was told so many times to not care. Greg is an unlikable character, one that characters find funny but never translated to a laugh from me. Greg will make a joke or say a line and the characters in the book will lose their minds with laughter. Without having any of it be actually funny, it just comes across as fake and that I can’t trust the judgement of any characters.
Greg and his friend (but not really), Earl, make movies. That’s a thing in the book too. At least, the book says it is. Really, their bad movies are regulated to a chapter of terrible movie title puns that make me feel like Andrews doesn’t have much of an imagination. The description of the movies aren’t funny, they’re boring and don’t create a sense of style, good or ill. Maybe Andrews is trying to show how bad these movies are by how not funny they are, but it comes across as page filler without purpose.
The book ends in cliches, reminding us how effortless The Perks of Being a Wallflower made it look. It also goes for a realistic ending that throws away any growth the characters should have gained. That’s Andrews’ point as well, showing us how it would really happen. But truth doesn’t always make for satisfying fiction. If the book had been more clever throughout, if it’s insights had been thoughtful, if the rest of it had worked in any capacity, it might have earned it’s subversive ending. Instead, it just makes for a dull read. The honesty and pain of The Fault in Our Stars seemed to rub Andrews the wrong way, making him jump and down yelling, “No, this way is better!” The movie might be better, if it takes out the inner monologue and brings any sense of humor to Greg’s bad films. I doubt I’ll be testing that theory any time soon.
Maybe I don’t like Young Adult books. Maybe that is the problem. But when I can read The Outsiders and Salt to the Sea and find them entertaining, I have to believe I can still tell a bad book from a good one, no matter the age range. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl did nothing for me and I don’t think there was a time when it would have ever worked for me. Non-dating teen or adult.