Published by Amulet Books on March 1, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, YA
Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.
This book is so hard for me to review because I was so conflicted throughout its pages. Like honestly I’m about to start writing things here and I’m not completely sure what I’m going to say. But that’s why book reviews are fun sometimes. Sooooooo here we go:
Let me start with things I did like, because there were quite a few:
The voice of the narrator.
This is true at least in the beginning. His character and voice are really unique and realistic and just relatable. He’s just your average teenage boy. Like Greg purposefully sets out in high school to be neither popular nor a loner. To be friendly to everyone but be close friends with no one. To just blend it without standing out. And so he’s just average. But his voice is funny and inviting and real.
This book is pretty funny. I think that is it’s main draw, honestly. With Greg’s very open and honest voice as the narrator, he says some pretty funny things. Like this, for instance: “Who else is there to lead the masses? The smart kids? Please. They have no interest in politics. They’re hoping simply to attract as little attention as possible until high school is over. Then they can escape to some college where no one will mock them for knowing how an adverb works.” Lol. And I’m an English major so I can laugh at that. But he was just never afraid to keep it real and say the truth without being politically correct.
This book was set-up really well. The real book is written by Jesse Andrews. But the book itself is “written” by Greg Gaines, the narrator. Who is writing about his experience with Rachel, the “dying girl.” Or actually it’s basically a story about himself, but whatever. So it’s essentially a book within a book. And I liked that. This book-ception thing going on. At least in this green copy I have, they put all the copyright info in the back so you don’t even see Andrews’ name besides the cover. So when I opened the book and started, they have this little introduction from the “author,” and I read it thinking it was Andrews but it was actually Greg. They kind of “fool” you into thinking Greg is really the author of the book, which gives it a lot of credibility and I actually really liked that.
Along with this book-ception concept, this is not an ordinary book. It’s filled with lists and most of the dialogue is written in screenplay format (because Greg’s a filmmaker) and the breaking down of the fourth wall and it’s awesome. It’s creative and fresh.
Now let’s get to what I didn’t like…because when I started, I actually really enjoyed it. I even purchased it before I read it (which I do very rarely)…but it sounded like something I would really like. And I started off really liking it. And then at the end, I just felt mostly conflicted and underwhelmed.
The voice of the narrator.
“What?” You might be asking. “Carlisa, you just used this same thing as a good thing. What in the sam-hill are you doing?” I know, dear reader. I know. This is why I was so conflicted and why I noted I only liked his voice in the beginning. And I don’t think his voice changed. It’s just that as I got to know Greg more, see his character and personality, I got really annoyed with him. He’s very egocentric. And very, very passive.
Flat, flat (like paper-flat) characters.
The characters stay 100% the same from the beginning to the end (with the exception of one person). Page 1 Greg is also Page 295 Greg. Bah. That just drives me crazy. Why did I just take this journey with you if you’re not taking a journey yourself, you know?
And Rachel has no personality. You basically learn nothing about her the entire book. Except that she has cancer.
It’s pretty crude sometimes. Really it’s only one character, Greg’s friend Earl…and then Greg who goes along with it not to rock the boat (*cough passive cough*). And maybe boys actually think like this all the time? Maybe that’s true (I wish it weren’t). And like I said, his voice is very real. So if it’s real, I guess it’s represented well? I just personally don’t like it.
The resolution that doesn’t come.
The entire book you’re waiting for a resolution. For Greg to grow up a little or just really anything to happen. You’re waiting for a reason this book was written. But there really isn’t one. And we’re warned of this, but still. What’s the point of the book?
The reason why I’ve been so conflicted over this book is that all the things I didn’t like about it were done purposefully. The characters are supposed to be flat and I don’t think we’re really supposed to like Greg at all. There isn’t supposed to be a moral. And we’re very openly exposed to that. In the little intro, Greg says, “My point is this: This book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons, or Little-Known Facts About Love, or sappy tear-jerking Moments When We Knew We Had Left Our Childhood Behind for Good, or whatever.” So, yes. It’s very clear. But I think as readers we still expect something to happen. Something to grow. I don’t know.
It’s just like Andrews purposefully created these things that we will both love and then hate. So, I’m conflicted. And I gave it 2.5 because it’s hanging around the middle somewhere but felt more dissatisfied than satisfied. So, yup.
But I’m still excited to see the movie. It looks good in those hipster-movie kind of way. And it looks like it’s focused more on Rachel than on Greg, which is a huge plus. But it’s not showing in my area right now (what the heck).
Have you read this? What did you think? Or do you think you’re going to read this? Let me know!