Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
“The novel’s main character and narrator is a 17-year-old loner named Greg Gaines. Greg spends most of his time with his best friend Earl, who shares his love for filmmaking. During his senior year, Greg’s mother urges him to rekindle his friendship with a classmate named Rachel, who suffers from leukemia. Greg attempts to connect with her by showing her some of the movies he made with Earl. As her condition deteriorates, he begins making a movie about Rachel, which thrusts him into the spotlight he has tried to avoid for all of high school. Despite its serious content, the story is told through humor using Greg’s distinctive teenage voice.”
Summary of Critical Reception – (Challenged Book Spotlight: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Intellectual Freedom Blog )
“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl received positive reviews upon its release and became a New York Times bestseller. VOYA called the novel “highly recommended reading material” and “a fascinating look into the mind of a teen” in February 2012, with the caveat that its use of crude language makes it best suited for older teen readers. School Library Journal recommends it for grades nine and up for the same reason. Kirkus (February 2012) also praised it, noting that Andrews “succeeds brilliantly in painting a portrait of a kid whose responses to emotional duress are entirely believable and sympathetic, however fiercely he professes his essential crappiness as a human being.” The Kirkus review also notes that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is very unique, despite comparisons to the similar subject matter in John Green’s 2011 bestseller The Fault in Our Stars. Booklist (March 2012) additionally called the work “profound” in its starred review. Saying “One need only look at the chapter titles (“Let’s Just Get This Embarrassing Chapter Out of the Way”) to know that this is one funny book.” Several reviewers noted that the novel’s structure, which at times resembles a screenplay, makes it a good pick for reluctant readers. Greg narrates much of the story in a stream of consciousness style, making it relatable to teens. ‘Mr. Andrews’ often hilarious teen dialogue is utterly convincing, and his characters are compelling. Greg’s random sense of humor, terrible self-esteem and general lack of self-awareness all ring true. Like many YA authors, Mr. Andrews blends humor and pathos with true skill, but he steers clear of tricky resolutions and overt life lessons, favoring incremental understanding and growth.’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.”
moving it becomes in spite of itself. ...” But it’s this honest lack of profundity, and the struggle to overcome it, that makes Andrews’ debut actually kinda profound.”
Horn Book Guide (as cited in Follett Titlewave)
"...Self-deprecating and cynical in the extreme, high school senior Greg says he's writing the opposite of a "sappy tear-jerking" cancer story and offers up a funny, profane, and, despite his supposed best efforts, poignant narrative.”
“...[F]requently hysterical...Debut novelist Andrews succeeds brilliantly in painting a portrait of a kid whose responses to emotional duress are entirely believable and sympathetic, however fiercely he professes his essential crappiness as a human being. Though this novel begs inevitable thematic comparisons to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (2012), it stands on its own in inventiveness, humor and heart.”
Library Media Connection (as cited in Follett Titlewave)
“Greg Gaines is a self-described Jewish, overweight outcast in his senior year of high school. He and his friend Earl are amateur filmmakers. The story is written after the death of female classmate. Most of the story is written by Greg, as he continually tells the reader why he or she should not be reading it. It is sometimes written in a format that resembles a movie script. Adults will recognize Greg’s self-realization over the course of the novel. Reluctant high school males may find it appealing. Profanity is used throughout the novel. Laura McConnell, Library Media Specialist, Brush (Colorado) Middle School.”
"This tale tries a little too hard to be both funny and tragic, mixing crude humor and painful self-awareness. Readers may be either entertained or exhausted by the grab bag of narrative devices Andrews employs ... In trying to defy the usual tearjerker tropes, Andrews ends up with an oddly unaffecting story."
CCBC Choices 2013. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2013.
“A laugh-out-loud, probing novel that looks honestly at life and death is told in a variety of formats, including dialogue, movie scripts, headlines, lists, and prose.”
(seems to list 2 different reviews/ers on this page, one attributed, one not attributed? Makes it a mixed review) “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.”
“An outstanding novel that is both endearingly absurd and brutally honest. Its laugh-out-loud humor, quick pacing, and surprising profundity will appeal to a wide range of readers...[L]ively, contemporary tone. avoids melodrama and moralizing clichés...The outcome is a captivating disaster that is both funny and gut wrenching.”
“This was probably the funniest book I’ve ever read. Greg’s self-deprecating narrative was extremely cynical and utterly hilarious and along with Earl’s epic lines of wisdom, it made for a laugh out loud book.... Before reading, I was skeptical about this book as I didn’t understand how anyone could make a book involving cancer funny but somehow, Jesse Andrews has done it. One thing I should make clear is that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not about cancer, it’s about friendship and life and love... It went against every cliché possible... One thing I loved about Me and Earl was the way it completely refused to live up to stereotypes.... Although I laughed constantly throughout this book, at the end I cried floods of tears. Everyone should read this book. Whether you’re a teenager or middle aged, boy or girl I truly believe that everyone will be entertained and moved by Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I was. It’s the kind of book that sticks with you long after you have read it.”
“Parents need to know that readers are aware from the title that a teen girl is dying in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and there are few things more upsetting than that. Readers and their parents may also be put off by narrator Greg's teen self-centeredness and admitted lack of empathy with his friend Rachel -- or by the characters' liberal use of crude and profane language. But this novel is extremely clever and funny, and though Greg's excessive self-loathing can seem over-the-top, there's something very true in this portrayal of high school chaos and friendship. There is a reference to Greg's brothers' marijuana use, and Greg and Earl accidentally ingest some. Greg's perpetual state of shame and self-loathing gets a bit old to other characters in the book, and it does a little to readers as well. The tone of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is practically nihilistic, but the novel is full of hilarious moments and believable characters. It's a testament to Jesse Andrews' talent with comedy and character development that a novel in which a teen is dying can be funny so much of the time. Descriptions of Greg and Earl's films are especially entertaining, and in those cases, Greg's self-deprecating M.O. is very effective.”
“I laughed out loud several times while reading Me and Earl and the Dying Girl...Greg narrates this tale in a unique voice...It is an irreverent form of storytelling ...It all sounds so deep and heavy, and sometimes it is. But it is also wickedly funny at parts. ...During one scene (which involves Greg and Earl unintentionally getting high) I laughed out loud, long and hard. Sometimes the reminders that this is a terrible tome were overbearing as a reader, but they fit with the character and his voice. Speaking of voice, you know at the beginning where I mentioned the back cover blurb and it described it as “profane” – yeah, it is. Greg and Earl are typical horny teenage guys who talk to each other using more curse words than the best sailor could muster the courage to use. This tale is definitely for the mature end of the young adult spectrum; in part because they alone would have the emotional maturity to step into these waters and of course because of some of the conversations that they have...[R]ichly developed [characters]...And he has a real honesty in the way he speaks. Earl is the character who stayed with me most after reading this tale; he moved me...poignant moments...Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a funny, profane novel rich in pathos and just enough quirk to make it stand out... Rachel isn’t as fully developed, and parts of this actually are a good choice for the character who never really embraces what is happening to her and instead allows Greg to do most of the talking while the two of them are together. (If I were going to in any way compare this to The Fault in Our Stars – which I know I said you totally shouldn’t and you totally shouldn’t – I would have to say she’s no Hazel. But the truth is, she isn’t meant to be.)”
Time Magazine 100 Best YA Books of All Time
Top 10 First Novels for Youth: 2012, by Ilene Cooper | Booklist Online
CCBC Choices, 2013
Wilson's Junior High School, October 2012. (Cited by Central Bucks School District)
Junior Library Guild High Interest Selection, 2012
Garden State Teen Book Awards, 2015 -- High School Fiction for Grades 9-12 (NJ)
Tayshas Reading List, 2013, for Grades 9-12 (Texas)
Green Mountain Book Award, 2013-2014, Grades 9-12 (Vermont)
2013-2014 Read On Wisconsin Book Club, Grades 9-12 (Wisconsin)
Time Magazine’s 100 Best YA Books of All Time
ALA Most banned lists:
7th most challenged in 2021 Considered sexually explicit and degrading to women.
Tied for 10th most challenged in 2022 For claims it is sexually explicit, profanity.
43 challenges to this title where the outcome is currently unknown. (Email correspondence, ALA OIF, 11/7/23)
Response from Author Jesse Andrews
Deadline, July 2023 “I hoped it would make kids laugh and feel understood; I thought adults might find it refreshingly frank about how mundane and disappointing teenage life usually is...If you read my book from front to back, I promise you, you will not find it pornographic. Just to define our terms: the function of pornography is to stimulate erotic arousal. No one, and I find it wild that I have to spell this out, has ever been erotically aroused by reading Me and Earl and the Dying Girl....In earnest, I find it heartbreaking that the book-banning crowd is using poor reading comprehension as a tool to deny kids access to the very books that might make them better readers. And this might be where you say: “Jesse, how would your weird book, with its gross-out riffs and many swear words, help a kid read better?” I think this is a totally fair question to ask. My answer is: that profane language reflects the way real-life teenagers actually talk, and that kind of realism makes kids enjoy reading. Not all kids! Maybe not most kids. But some. Who might not otherwise realize that reading can be fun. And that to me is really important.”
USA Today, Sept. 2022 “The book is frequently challenged for what Andrews calls “garden-variety profanity” that captures the way teenage boys talk...“I thought that kind of naturalism would makes it look appealing to other teenagers and make it feel real to them,” Andrews says. “I hear from a lot of readers who are like: ‘You know, a lot of books, just don't feel natural to me. I don't love reading, but I like reading your book.’...”Andrews says cherry-picked passages misrepresent the book and its intentions. “It's about teenage boys talking about sex. They're not having it, they barely know what it is. They're joking about it, the way teenagers often do,” Andrews says. “There’s a kind of an innocent naivete to it that gets totally lost when you're selecting a couple of sentences and reading it out loud in this aggrieved tone to the school board.”
Yahoo!Entertainment, Sept, 2023 “Andrews argues that the language and sexual situations portrayed in his novel simply represent the reality of the lives of many teen boys.”
“ I used to find these attempts to ban Me & Earl & the Dying Girl funny, just because they were so ridiculous. It's a potty-mouthed book about how hard it is to process pain and grief, and how hard it is to grow up. The idea that this harms anyone is beyond stupid.”
Responses to challenges
Retained in the following as per email correspondence, 11/7/23, ALA OIF:
Bixby Public Schools (OK)
State Impact, 2022 “The Bixby Public Schools Board of Education voted... [with] a margin of 3-2 to keep the book Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in the wake of the challenge.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Board member Matt Dotson said. “When you set a precedent of ‘let’s get rid of all books we don’t agree with,’ that’s a little concerning.”
School District of Lancaster County (PA)
Lancaster Online, June 2022 “An Elizabethtown Area School District review committee recently denied a parent’s request to remove the best-selling novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl from the district’s high school and middle school library...The book remains on the district’s flagged book list, which allows parents to opt their student out of accessing material that is deemed by the administration as more mature or obscene...[W]hoever was on the first committee feels that there was value to the book,” said Grove. “The vulgar conversation really had nothing to do with the purpose of the book. The purpose of the book was that kids know or readers know about dealing with the death of a peer and how that age group handled it, or how they were able to process it.”..“If a young person wants to read something, go at it,” Reid Andrews said. “The idea of barring them from reading is problematic. We should be happy for any book they want to read.”....[I]t's OK to not enjoy a book and for it to still be a valuable part of a library.”
Fox43, October 2022 "It's just a great book, and it definitely deserves to be on the shelf," said parent Alisha Tinkle. "But, [sic] is not just about one book. No book has made it to our school board yet and this is the first one. So, during the official challenge, a review committee reviewed the book and said this has value we want it here”...Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was first put up for review in Elizabethtown in November of last year when officials said the allegations about the book were unfounded... Wednesday's vote was to appeal the previous ruling by the school district's superintendent that would allow Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in school libraries.”
McKinney ISD (TX)
Houston Chronicle, Aug 2022 “In February in McKinney ISD, parents Paul and Rachel Elliott formally requested the district review 282 books they thought were inappropriate. Records from the district suggest none of those books were formally reviewed. The district reviewed two books in the 2021-22 school year and opted to keep both.” [Me and Earl and the Dying Girl not mentioned by name, retained as per correspondence ALA OIF.]
A message to parents regarding library books. | McKinney ISD “The school library book debate has been largely fueled by political agendas, sensationalism, and exaggeration...Even though school library books are being used as a political ploy to rile voters up in advance of the upcoming elections, it is important to recognize that our teachers and library media specialists take great measures to ensure that library resources are safe and appropriate for students. Parents always have the right to determine what is appropriate for their child and can provide librarians with a list of books or topics that their child is not permitted to access.”
The situation is fluid:
The Dallas Morning News, January 2023 “School board trustees in McKinney have unanimously voted to change its book policy, a move they say makes it easier for books to be reviewed. Instead of evaluators needing to read an entire book they may now read only passages under question.
Trustees also voted to clarify the definition of obscene material, using language from Texas Penal Code Statute 43.21.”
Big Walnut School District (OH)
[no media/citation confirmation that book was retained. Retained as per OLA IFC]
Delaware Gazette, Nov 2022 On a list of 24 challenges, but review was not scheduled because as per the Superintendent, “...our first priority is a book that has been challenged that is required reading by all students in a class with no alternate options. As far as I’m aware, we have no books in this category.”
ABC, January 2023 “Dozens of students staged a walkout Thursday at the high school around 2 p.m.We are students who are able to read books which contain difficult topics,” Carr said. “We want these books in our school. We want them in our library. We want them being taught to us,” Another student Taylor Thompson said she hopes their protest makes a difference. “Students' opinions matter. We are here and we would like to share our voices," Thompson said.”
Windham Raymond School District (ME)
Bangor Daily News, Oct 2023 “Most parents of Hermon High School students don’t want to restrict their student’s access to books — despite what a town survey showed earlier this year. A permission slip went home with high schoolers at the start of the year. Parents were asked to decide if their child should be restricted from reading books with mature or adult content...A total of 82 percent of students are allowed full access to the library, contradicting the survey of town residents where 56 percent supported a policy restricting access to some books with adult or mature content...Out of 564 permission slips, 466 students are allowed access to all books in the library. Parents of 45 students restricted their child’s access to the list of 81 books...Debate over restricting access to books began after parents expressed concern in late 2021 over an LGBTQ+ book display in the high school library. A group of parents wanted a policy that identified library books with sexual content but not ban or to remove them.”
Methacton School District (PA)
The Windy Hill, May 2023 “After undergoing a months-long review process, eight criticized library books will not be removed from the MSD school libraries... Mrs. Woudenberg, MHS librarian, pointed out two major benefits of tackling these difficult subjects. “These books allow students to see themselves and identify with characters that are like them. It’s an important thing at this age to be able to see people like yourself around you. Also, it’s important to have students read and learn about people that are different from them. Difficult subjects help teens relate the characters to their own struggles and help them understand the world around them.” Mrs. Woudenberg said, “Cutting a piece out of a book and sharing it out of context loses the meaning of the rest of the book. It’s really important to look at a piece of literature as a whole and not just take out a sentence here and there.” Michael Chapin, AP English Language teacher, disagrees with the view that children need to be protected from books. He says “I don’t think that books are dangerous. I don’t think that keeping books away from students keeps them safe.” He further pointed out that it often goes the other way around: books protect children, keeping them safe by helping them understand themselves and the world better. Ms. Meanix had a message for the students they affect the most: “Students should care about this because libraries are an important part of democracy. Everyone’s entitled to their own beliefs, but everyone should also be entitled to the opportunity to learn and build those opinions. That’s the most important function of a school, and a library is the heart of that purpose.”
There were an additional 4 locations where it was retained that were not publicly disclosed through media coverage. These were at school districts in Texas, Oregon (2), and North Carolina. [ALA OIF]
Other retentions (not listed in ALA OIF email correspondence)
Ankeny School District, Polk County, Iowa
Group-Reconsideration-Recommendation_-Me-and-Earl-and-the-Dying-Girl.pdf “After careful and thoughtful review and discussion of this title in its entirety, the committee decided to retain the book in the collections at the 8-12 grade level. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl deals with cancer, loss, and grief in a manner distinct from other books. The unique format of the multi-genre writing mirrors the main character’s personality and interests. The novel portrays both realistic and dysfunctional family relationships and shows how teenagers do not always know how to handle their emotions, and, in fact, that they do not have the maturity and/or skill set to handle difficult emotions like grief. According to the American Library Association’s Diverse Collections: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, a diverse collection should contain “content by and about a wide array of people and cultures to authentically reflect a variety of ideas, information, stories, and experiences.” In Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, diverse characters from different backgrounds clash and find a commonality. The city school setting and dynamic also provides a different perspective from a suburban school community. The American Library Association states in Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, “that...children and young adults unquestionably possess First Amendment rights, including the right to receive information through the library in print, sound, images, data, social media, online applications, games, technologies, programming, and other formats.” While sex is discussed in the novel, it is not explicitly described and is easily skippable. Profanity is found throughout the novel and was primarily used in dialogue between two friends, which can be authentic for age and situation. While not a primary selection for a secondary collection, this book is a good fit for needed areas and the cost-need/benefit makes it a solid purchase for the collection. This book fulfills a need in the collection as it appeals to reluctant readers.”
Guilford Public Schools, Guilford CT
Bookstr October 2023. “The decision, made on September 26, was announced by Chair Kathleen M.B. Balestracci. “All nine members were present for this meeting, and all votes were unanimous to allow the continued... availability for all books,” she announced...During the board meeting that occurred on October 10, Balestracci stated that the decision within the Board’s authority was whether or not the books could remain on the library shelves. Their ruling was decisions on books should be delegated to the school system’s librarians. She also discussed the quality of the books and their importance, stating that they addressed important topics such as racism, bullying, sexual health, and sexual orientation.”
Central Bucks County School District, PA
Committee Report “Reconsideration Outcome: The literary work will remain on the library shelves and no change to its inclusion in any library will be made.”
Osceola County (FL)
The Fire May, 2023 “More than one year has passed since the School District of Osceola County removed five books from its libraries for review after several community members complained about them at a school board meeting. Now, without any public explanation — and in defiance of its own review committee’s decision — the district has permanently removed the books from its collection.”
Keller ISD (TX)
Keller ISD Website, 2021 - This decision came after much debate and discussion, and the decision was not unanimous. The book will remain in high school libraries.
The Banned Bookshelf 2022 - The title went through the district’s challenge process that is designed to protect the rights of students under the constitution.
[Teachers] were instructed to remove all of these books even if they were cleared by the censorship committee.
Status unknown as of 2023.
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