Author: Jesse Andrews
Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Why I read it: I got an ARC from Netgalley and the cover and premise drew me in.
What I thought: Wow! This book really blew me away.
The story centers around Greg Gaines, a budding filmmaker in high school. He has a best friend in Earl, foul mouthed and living in a very dysfunctional home. Greg tries to skate the lines between all the groups at his high school, being friendly with all social groups, but belonging to none. This changes when one of Greg's acquaintances, Rachel, is diagnosed with leukemia and Greg is coerced
I felt that I was a little bit like Greg when I was a teenager, besides being male. He's kind of a loner with one best friend, and he's also very self-deprecating. Sometimes the self-deprecation was a little too much for me, but that also might be because I know I was (am?) that way when I was in high school. The other characters are quirky, but Andrews does flesh them out well. Rachel seemed to be the only character not fully fleshed out, but I think this was intentional, because Greg doesn't know a lot about her and instead tries to make her laugh by talking and talking. In some ways, he's very self-centered, but he comes to realize this at the end, and even compares himself to Earl, who he believes is a better person than him.
I am so glad the book didn't resort to a boring romance. Although other characters saw Rachel and Greg as a couple, Greg never saw their relationship as a romantic one. He even confesses that he barely learned anything about Rachel. Rachel was almost a vehicle for Greg to "find himself" but I don't think the author went down this path and I am so glad he didn't. Greg readily admits that he is most likely not a good person and reacts to Rachel's death in a way that seems fitting for a teen. He doesn't become sentimental or go on and on about her death. He says many times that he didn't learn anything from her death, but in the end, I think he does. There are a few parts in the end where I teared up when Greg talks about Rachel, even though they are mostly acquaintances and not close friends.
The story jumps around in different forms of prose. From a screenplay to a list and then back to regular prose. I thought this would be unsettling, but I think it worked in the way the author set up the characters and the plot. Greg wants to be a filmmaker and he tells the story like one is watching a movie.
Overall, I give the book 4 stars. I really did like the character of Greg and my adult self sees part of him in my teen self. I also really liked the cover. I think it's unique and each character gets a representation on the cover.