Jesse Andrews is a writer, musician, and former German youth hostel receptionist. He is a graduate of Schenley High School and Harvard University and lives in Boston. This is his first novel. Visit him at jesseandrews.com.
The words `hilarious' and `cancer' aren't an obvious match, but in Jesse Andrews' debut YA novel, the two meet for a bitingly acerbic look at life and friendship. Until senior year, Greg Gaines has successfully spent his years flying under the radar and hanging out with Earl, remaking art- house movies like Aguirre, the Wrath of God and the much improved sequel, Earl, the Wrath of God II. Everything changes when Greg's mum forces him to befriend a dying girl, Rachel. What begins as morbid obligation turns to something resembling friendship, but when the budding filmmakers find themselves making Rachel the Film, Greg and the Truth finally come to blows. This sharply drawn character piece ticks all the right boxes for readers 15-plus looking for something beyond the mould, perfectly capturing all the awkwardness, alienation, blind insensitivity and intense desire for shared experience that goes with the territory. Moving between laugh-out-loud gross-out comedy to more self-conscious and provocative satire, Andrews dissects the `tear-jerking' coming-of-age genre with a knowing wink, while leading us into deeper confrontations with human nature itself, and the often baffling ways in which we react to loss, death and living. Meredith Tate is a freelance proofreader and book reviewer who has worked for a children's publisher. She was also a teenage cult film enthusiast
Gr 9 Up-This debut novel is told from the point of view of intensely self-critical Greg S. Gaines, an aspiring filmmaker. A self-described pasty-faced failure with girls, the 17-year-old spends most of his time with his friend Earl, a foul-mouthed kid from the wrong side of town, watching classic movies and attempting to create their own cinematic masterpieces. When Greg's mother learns that Rachel, one of his classmates, has been diagnosed with leukemia, she encourages him to rekindle the friendship that started and ended in Hebrew school. While Greg promises that his story will contain "zero Important Life Lessons," his involvement with Rachel as her condition worsens nonetheless has an impact. In a moment of profundity, however, Greg also argues, "things are in no way more meaningful because I got to know Rachel before she died. If anything, things are less meaningful." Andrews makes use of a variety of narrative techniques to relate the story: scenes are presented in screenplay format and facts are related as numbered and elaborated-upon lists that are tied together by a first-person narrative divided into chapters indicated with self-deprecating titles (e.g., "I put the 'Ass' in 'Casanova'"). While the literary conceit-that the protagonist could be placed in a traditionally meaningful situation and not grow-is irreverent and introduced with a lot of smart-alecky humor, the length of the novel (overly long) and overuse of technique end up detracting from rather than adding to the story.-Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.