Genre: Coming of Age, Young Adult
Publication Date: 1st March 2012
The Book Depository (Free Shipping!)
Amateur film maker Greg Gaines is encouraged by his mother to befriend an old acquaintance who is dying of cancer.
I have to start really by saying that I thought this book was hilarious. The narrative style – rambling monologue – is a perfect fit for Greg’s humorous persona. It won’t be for everyone – I would only recommend it to a third of the bookworms I know – but it was perfect for me and the sarcastic, dark comedy I love.
One night Mom had a little too much wine at dinner and confided to us all that, before we were born, and after she realized her children would have Dad’s also-not-Jewish last name, she decided she wanted all of us to be “surprise Jews.” Meaning, Jews with sneaky Anglo-Saxon names. I know, it makes no sense. I guess it shows that a vulnerability to brain fungus runs in the family.
Greg is the most honest protagonist I have ever met, and the perspective is refreshing and shocking. His narrative is blunt, which gives the impression that everything we are reading is authentic.
There are a lot of home truths in this book. Greg is a very self-centered protagonist and this is constantly reinforced throughout the book. This is a story not about Rachel the “dying girl”, but about Greg. He is egocentric, and when he realises his character flaw, it is too late. I hoped his epiphany would happen while Rachel was still alive. I really think I had been lulled into The Land of False Hope by other YA books, believing that right at the last minute, Greg would fall in love and Rachel would find the will to continue her battle with cancer. Or at the very least, I was hoping there would be some kind of romance subplot – I know The Fault In Our Stars didn’t end happily but there had been love and that had given the death (not being too specific about said death as this isn’t the place for spoiling OTHER books) more emotional impact. When Rachel died there was a surprising realness to it. It just happened rather anticlimactically. Greg didn’t get the girl (he didn’t want the girl), and yet either way the girl was going to die. There is something in that which I find more shocking in some ways than TFIOS.
This book probably makes it seem like I hate myself and everything I do. But that’s not totally true. I mostly just hate every person I’ve ever been. I’m actually fine with myself right now.
I really like the contrast in personalities between Greg and Earl. I didn’t really dig Earl particularly, but I admired that he had the insight to see that Rachel deserved their attention. I did wonder if this rare tenderness shown by Earl was hinting at a potential romance (*hopeful face*) but Greg was so caught up with himself that I don’t think he even would have noticed.
The book never pretends to be something it is not, and there’s a life lesson buried in there somewhere I think, about not knowing what you’ve got until it is gone.
The most beautiful thing about you is that you’re not a sock puppet.
Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4/5)