I knew that I needed to read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl the second I set eyes on that cover art. The design team behind this book did a stand outI knew that I needed to read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl the second I set eyes on that cover art. The design team behind this book did a stand out job!
For a debut novel the tone of the writing in this book is beyond fantastic. If I hadn't looked it up I would have thought that this was Jesse Andrew's fifth book, not his first. Andrews manages to convey a very strong and complex personality in Greg. The writing feels incredibly natural in how direct and self aware it is. I also love the formatting and the way that script style dialogue is integrated seamlessly into the story. It wasn't overdone and it fit with who Greg is as a writer directing his own story and controlling just what narrative he wants to tell.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is actually very successful at taking a different approach to what is becoming a very familiar story in YA. This book isn't a love story and it isn't about hope or inspiring anyone. Instead the plot focuses on the idea of friendship and compassion written about from the perspective of a teenage boy who is very detached and passive. The plot also chooses to focus on day to day events rather than big sweeping ideas about life and death, which was very refreshing!
However, I can't say that I super enjoyed the book as a whole. There were plenty of things I loved about it, especially for the first half of the book, but then the closer I got to the end the less I was digging it. The Epilogue somewhat won me back, but those last couple of chapters were not the best. Especially when I compare it to the fantastic beginning.
There were some things that I just outright couldn't get on board with. Earl was a very hit or miss character for me. I can understand what Andrews was attempting to do with Earl and sometimes that translated into a very interesting kick-ass character. BUT then there were the times were the joke crossed the line and made me roll my eyes and try and move on as quick as possible. For example, Earl makes some ignorant remarks about bisexuality as a goof/joke. It was so entirely unnecessary and the more I think about those sort of shock value moments the more annoyed I become. It was by no means a death sentence to the book as a whole, but it was a sour note in something that I was really enjoying.
So I'm not as over the moon about this book as I could have been, but I still think it deserves four stars. Remember how much I was gushing just a few moments ago? Well the positives manage to be so awesome that the negatives are being balanced out. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was incredibly interesting and quick to read. I seriously could not put it down. I'm very interested in seeing what Jesse Andrews decides to write next.
Geography Club was a quick and easy read that manages to tackle the very complex landscape of being closeted in high school. There were some things abGeography Club was a quick and easy read that manages to tackle the very complex landscape of being closeted in high school. There were some things about this book that had me jumping for joy and some things that just left me lukewarm so I'm rating rather harshly when I give it only 3 stars.
Geography Club had me hooked the second I saw it highlighted more than just one character who identifies as gay. Guys! We have a bisexual! I REPEAT! We have a bisexual! Having a group of LGB who all come from different social groups was fantastic to see. The book does a great job at presenting the challenges that come with a group of kids (who all have very different personalities) trying to come together and form a sense of unity. The biggest selling point of this book is the way the characters interact with each other. The dialogue is very well written and this gives each character a real distinct personality. Geography Club is primarily focused on the idea of friendships between LGB rather than just the idea of romantic partners. Actually, despite the romantic relationships in the book I almost hesitate to label it a ya-romance because it leans more towards being contemporary ya.
The idea of a bunch of closeted kids forming their own secret gay club is kind of perfect. The book does a great job at illustrating why the characters are so scared to come out and the sense of loneliness that is caused by being isolated because of that kept secret. The book also touches upon the feeling of being trapped in this social environment of fear that high school creates. All of which I absolutely enjoyed reading.
However, despite Geography Club's focus on all these painful topic I was not as impressed with the writing as I would have liked to have been. As I said earlier, the dialogue and characterization is great, but the tone and content of Russel's inner most thoughts felt like it was holding a lot back from the reader. For one, there is a giant blank space where Russel's home life is concerned. Parents are only briefly mentioned at one of the Club meetings, which I had hoped would lead to more, but throughout the book Russel never discusses what his life is like outside of school. It seemed like a really strange decision to not include something about his home life especially considering he's sneaking out at weird hours and randomly joining sports teams. I realized at the end of the book I knew very little about Russel as a person outside of school drama and his experiences within the Geography Club, which I think limits the story's impact.
The other issue I had was with the Gunnar/Kimberly/Trish plot line. Not only did I find it to be incredibly toxic and cringe worthy I think there should have been some serious consequences to follow up what happened at the end of the book. I'm not going to write about the events themselves since that would take me into major spoiler territory, but I would like to discuss alcoholism. Alcoholism is a subject that comes up as part of three character's backgrounds: Kevin, Belinda, and Kimberly. For Kevin and Belinda it is used to create understanding and empathy, for Kimberly it's used to emphasize what a villain she is. I consider alcohol abuse to be a pretty serious subject and I didn't like the dichotomy that was created when it was used as a genuine story element on one page and then used to characterize a person as being out of control/"bad" on another. If you're going to make certain topics even a minor/minuscule part of your story I expect a lot more follow through on how those themes are handled.
Overall, I enjoyed the book for it's characters and am actually looking forward to seeing what the film adaptation does with the story. I'd recommend it to anyone interested to give Geography Club a shot. I read it cover to cover in a little under 2 hours, which made the experience as a whole well worth it....more
As a nerdy Canadian I listened to a lot of Q (the CBC radio show former hosted by Ghomeshi). I found Ghomeshi's interviews to be interesting and I lovAs a nerdy Canadian I listened to a lot of Q (the CBC radio show former hosted by Ghomeshi). I found Ghomeshi's interviews to be interesting and I loved the way Q approached Canadian pop culture. I considered myself a fan of Ghomeshi so when I saw that he had written a book and it was being given away here on GR I jumped at the opportunity. By the time I had won and received my copy my enthusiasm had somewhat faded. I probably got about a chapter into the book while playing a game of pick-it-up-put-it-down.
I found Ghomeshi's writing to be a bit stilted and the subject matter just was not holding my interest. It lacked that spark of wit and relevance that I expected from seeing his work on Q. He just didn't sound like he did on the show. I now realize that what I was looking for was primarily supplied by the writers on Q rather than the host and that if any of them ever wrote a book I should probably read that instead. Eventually I stopped reading it with the intent of someday coming back and finishing up the book because it was written by such a noteworthy Canadian.
A lot of time has past and with the mounting evidence that Ghomeshi sexually harassed women who he worked with and allegedly violently sexually assaulted several other women I can pretty much grantee that I will never, ever finish this book or touch anything with Ghomeshi's name on it EVER again. I would suggest anyone looking for more information about these serious accusations to go and check out the CANADALAND podcast by journalist Jesse Brown who was a key part of breaking the story. I am a firm believer in always supporting the victims of sexual assaults, especially when they have been put in a situation where they felt forced into silence.
I am officially marking this book as a DNF and will not be giving it a rating.
I won a copy of 1982 by Jian Ghomeshi from a Goodreads giveaway...more