Greg Gaines is not a hero. Neither are Earl or Rachel, the other main characters. There are no heroes in this story, and that’s the way Greg likes it. Told from his point of view in a sort of personal essay that includes certain scenes written out like a screenplay, Greg tells the story of his senior year of high school, and the friend he never wanted. As Greg will tell you, this isn’t one of those sappy cry-your-eyes-out cancer stories. That doesn’t make it any less real.
This book has been on my radar since the film trailer started popping up, but my TBR list was pretty packed and I didn’t own a copy. In July, at a friend’s birthday party, I noticed she had a copy, and she was foolish enough to lend it to me. — I don’t lend books. They never come back, even from the people you trust. If it’s a really, truly good book, they will pass it on to another one of their friends and so on and so forth. — Luckily for my friend, I am a meticulous book nut who puts sticky notes on books that are not mine so they are sure to make it back to their original (or at least previous) owners. So, she lent me the book, and I read it while I was babysitting (no small feat).
I’m not usually a fan of 1st-person, but Greg managed to move between scenes seamlessly (maybe because it’s essay style, so he possibly re-wrote until it flowed like a paper?). The characters are all comically crazy. Parts of it were amusing, even. But everyone I had spoken to about the book had hyped it as hilarious, and maybe it’s not my brand of humor, but I wasn’t that impressed. To me, it was funnier in an “oh no, this poor kid, everything happens to him” kind of way that’s really more saddening than hilarious. But the writing itself and the formatting of the book were very good.
The ending was not predictable, which was refreshing. Greg, for all the complaining that he does throughout the book about this not being a story of self-acceptance and growth, sure does a whole lot of growing and changing. I still have yet to watch the film, but I imagine it will be pretty good, though the voice-over may get a bit boring.
I think if I had read this book in high school, it would have had a rather large impact on me. It may even have made me take stock of my life and possibly prevented some of the stupid things I did in college. But reading it now, I feel that much of the meaning is lost on me, having works like The Fault in Our Stars, A Walk to Remember, Eat, Pray, Love, The Paris Wife*, and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald** under my belt already. So, would I recommend it? Yes. Of course. But for me, personally, it wasn’t a stellar read.
HHC Rating: 3 Stars
* See my review of The Paris Wife
** See my review of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald