First Lines: I have no idea how to write this stupid book. Can I just be honest with you for one second? This is the literal truth. When I first started writing this book, I tried to start it with the sentence “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
Greetings, my friends! I have just returned from vacation, where I got to read many lovely books in the mountains among the birds and delightful scenery. And now, over the next few days, you’ll be getting reviews of the books I managed to read! This was one I wanted to read before I saw the movie (not that I actually have plans yet to see it, but…you know).
Greg has mastered the art of invisibility in high school: he is in all groups and in none. His only friend is Earl, who is actually more of a coworker than a friend. Together, they make terrible movies based on their favorite films. And they never make movies for people. Until Rachel emerges in Greg’s life, battling leukemia. At the insistence of his mom (and against his better judgement), Greg befriends Rachel. And, for as much as he’ll deny it, he kind of enjoys hanging out with Rachel. But when she stops treatment, Greg and Earl finally have to take a stand and do something.
First of all, I loved how clear and unique Greg’s voice was in this story. You can tell from the first lines that this isn’t your usual book. Greg’s writing this, 100%. It totally sounds like a high school boy was forced to sit down at his computer and outline his life. From that standpoint, it’s probably one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. Even those first lines had me giggling. And that was far from the last of my giggles, I assure you.
And because of that, I loved how awkward Greg and Earl were. We all have those awkward friends or those times we can be sitting with our friends and suddenly we’re talking about the stupidest thing we can think of. And Greg recounts all of that. It’s fantastic.
(Just as a warning, also due to Greg and Earl’s awkwardness, there’s a ton of language in this book, from your usual curse words of the f-variety to more explicit language. This book is not recommended for young readers, though I won’t stop you. I can’t.)
What I felt this book lacked was a plot. I mean, it’s great that there are awesome characters and great conversations and all of that, but the story itself was slow. A lot of the time, stuff just happens to Greg. He doesn’t go looking for it, and he really doesn’t do much when that stuff does happen to him. I kept waiting for character growth or anything resembling Greg taking initiative in his life, but it never really happened. And, partly, I knew this from Greg’s prologue. Still, I’d hoped for more.
It also didn’t help that the story didn’t really seem to build to much. Yes, you know where it’s headed without even picking up the book. Because of that, I didn’t really feel as though there was a climax to the story. It was more like a speed bump in the story, something to get past and move on.
It does have an unusual cast of characters and great voice, but I didn’t think this was the best of stories.