Published: April 21 2015 (revised edition)
Number of pages: 295
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: contemporary, coming-of-age, friendship, high school
Audience: YA (warning: beware of a lot curse words and sexually explicit comments)
Rating: 3/5 owl hoots
Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured out how to survive high school: remain at the periphery at all times and keep a really low profile. All this while making mediocre films with his sort of friend, Earl. But then his mom forces him to be friends with Rachel, who is diagnosed with cancer and this leads to the destruction of Greg’s life.
What started out as a laugh-out-loud story turned into a socially awkward to what-the-eff story. That pretty much sums up my reaction the whole entire time I was reading, but I was also looking for something funny to read and this story didn’t disappoint. There were a lot of awkward moments that added to the humor and since our main character, Greg Gaines is a really socially awkward kinda guy, that only makes the story more hilarious. The story is told in his POV and Greg does not hesitate on talking about his embarrassing high school moments; it was like reading his journal. He talks about his daily life since the first day of his senior year and when his mom announces that his friend, Rachel has cancer. Afterwards, Greg doesn’t miss a beat in writing his insecurities, thoughts, embarrassments and his personal experience in high school while offering survival advice to exist in a place that sucks so bad. After opening the book and reading the first line: “It is universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks” I was sold in buying the book because I had an inkling feeling that it was going to be one of the funniest books I’ve read. And I was right.
The one thing that I had problems with was connecting with the characters, specifically Earl, Greg’s somewhat best friend. I say somewhat because they are more of an odd couple with only one thing in common: you guessed it, their awkwardness. But apart from Greg, Earl makes me feel very uncomfortable and it’s not because of his backstory but he’s mannerisms, his actions, and the way he keeps cursing and making sexually suggestive comments makes me feel uneasy. In fact, I don’t think I would want to meet Earl in real life. I didn’t have problems connecting to Greg though, he kind of reminds me of my old self in high school but not as socially awkward as he is. I didn’t care much about high school and even I stayed away from social circles, but apart from Greg’s nervousness around high school cliques, he really is a funny guy and it’s his light and sometimes-cynical sense of humor that drew me to his character.
Although there were a lot of effed up moments that were really crazy, I still enjoyed the story because 1) it made me laugh and 2) the awkward moments in Greg’s life added to the humor making this a unique reading experience. I love how Greg finds it so frustrating to get his feelings out as he tries to overcome Rachel’s sickness and keeping his friendship with Earl in tact. You can really feel his social anxiety, his fears, grief, and frustration pouring out of the pages as he tries to tell his story. Even when things almost fell apart for him and Earl, he still managed to work things out and move forward, so in a way the story ended bittersweet.
So if you’re looking for a funny story with a lot of profanity and a ton of high school awkward moments then this book is for you.