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In the Shadow of Blackbirds
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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
Timothy Egan

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews This is hands down the funniest YA novel I have ever read. There were nights, while reading before sleep I was giggling and snorting, just like a character in the book ('The Dying Girl' from the title, Rachel) would do. In the car rider line, waiting to pick my son up from high school, the car would shake and I had tears rolling down my cheeks, I was laughing so hard.This is not your average book by a long shot. It needs to come with a warning. Oh, wait! It does. Right there on the back cover it says, "'A funny, profane, heartbreaking debut novel'-- You, hopefully, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews". The humor in that blurb came to me after reading it for a bit, because the throughout the book "Me" in the title is Greg Gaines, and he is telling the reader his story by writing this book. His asides to the reader are sprinkled throughout his journey. He's constantly denigrating his work, so there is recognition that you might need incessant reminders to finish reading it. It is profane in spots with language and references that might be a tad, oh, OK, quite a bit discomforting. It is part of the honesty of the humor, but it will take a broad-minded reader not to break stride and keep reading. "Maybe you should think about switching to a different book. Even to, like, an owner's manual to a refrigerator or something. That would be more heartwarming than this."And you should keep reading. This hilarious story hides a deceptively simple premise that we all lead incredibly self-absorbed lives in our heads as teenagers, and we devise numerous ways of coping in our complicated teenage school world. We are also parts of who we will evolve into being, getting glimmers of that person through our desires and inspirations. Greg is a somewhat ordinary guy who strives very hard not to be defined by any high school group designation and he's convinced himself that the method he's used to achieve this has worked. But Greg is not really your typical guy, because he's incredibly perceptive (he's writing this book), he extends his friendship outside his comfort zone to Earl (a boy clearly as receptive and perceptive as Greg, but from an extremely dysfunctional family), and he takes up the challenge of reaching out to Rachel, a classmate diagnosed with leukemia. "During my senior year, my mom forced me to become friends with a girl who had cancer. This brought about the destruction of my entire life."These are just ordinary kids, and what happens along the way is very ordinary and honest. None of us really know when in life circumstances will reach out and grab us, sweeping us into a chapter of our lives when we inadvertently choose 'the road less traveled', or the road chooses us. In going down that path, our identity is more clearly defined and our life is shaped in a new dimension. I urge you to accompany Greg on his journey. You'll laugh like crazy, you'll be shocked at times, and you might come away with an appreciation that author Jesse Andrews' first book is a loving encapsulation of the struggle endured by one teenage boy who finds himself in an unusual situation that shapes him into the young man he is meant to be.Read as an ARC prior to publication. Due March 2012.