As previously stated, I adored this book. Among its other perfections it has caused "You'd best tone that shit down, son" to become a regular line in the Household of Doom, as well as inspiring an uptick in quoting the nihilists from The Big Lebowski*.
I loved it for Greg, who—unlike many a boy in books about cancer—is not wise, thoughtful, mature, sweet, generous, or even all that nice, but is real, relatable, slappable**, and hilarious. I loved it for Earl, who is just plain wonderful—and who, even though Greg is so self-absorbed that he hardly even knows him, comes off as a real, believable person. A real, believable, hilarious person.
And I loved it for being a YA book about cancer that, in Greg's words:
So if this were a normal book about a girl with leukemia, I would probably talk a shitload about all the meaningful things Rachel had to say as she got sicker and sicker, and also probably we would fall in love and have some incredibly fulfilling romantic thing and she would die in my arms. But I don't feel like lying to you. She didn't have meaningful things to say, and we definitely didn't fall in love.
Which isn't to say, of course, that life can't or doesn't ever go the other way (dying and falling in love and deep thoughts and so on), but books that tell stories like that are much more common than books that tell stories like this. At least, I can't think of another one along these lines. Then again, I do tend to avoid the Crying Books.
This one wasn't, by the way. A Crying Book. For me, at any rate.
As Greg is hugely interested in film—and hugely disinterested in writing the book—he tends to switch up the format on a regular basis, so it goes from prose to screenplay (the back and forths between Greg and his mother KILLED ME) to lists (his Failed Girl Tactics are wonderful) to pages of pure dialogue. I laughed all the way through it. Laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.
It's not going to work for everyone: as I said previously, Greg and Earl are remarkably profane and dirty-minded. But wait, there's more! Throughout the book, Greg complains about writing, about how bad his book is, about how much he'd rather be doing something other than writing, and calls the readers dumb for continuing to read... which, I'd imagine, would go over not-so-well with some readers. And, of course, again, he's self-absorbed and decidedly not empathetic or thoughtful. Some people will HATE him.
But some, like me, will love him.
*It was this passage, about Greg and Earl's obsession with Klaus Kinski's Aguirre, the Wrath of God that did it. (Keep in mind that they were ten years old at the time):
"The young nihilists," Dad called us.
"What are nihilists?"
"Nihilists believe that nothing has any meaning. They believe in nothing."
"Yeah," Earl said. "I'm a nihilist."
"Me, too," I said.
"Good for you," Dad said, grinning. Then he stopped grinning and said, "Don't tell your mom."
That, combined with the fact that they are later obsessed with the movie Withnail and I, that there's a chapter called "I Put the "Ass" in "Casanova"", and that Chapter One begins, "So in order to understand everything that happened, you have to start from the premise that high school sucks" might serve as a good barometer for the tone of this book.
It occurs to me that this has become a ridonkulusly long footnote, so I'm going to head back up to the top of the page.
**I don't know what you're talking about. That's totally a word.
Book source: ILL through my library. And I totally don't want to give it back.