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Greg Gaines just wants to get through high school without making any friends. For Greg, no friends = no enemies, so he stays under the radar, tries to be blandly nice to everyone without actually connecting with anyone, and spends his free time making films with this “co-worker” Earl. Greg kind of reminds me of Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson, minus the woodworking:

When Greg’s mother tells him that a girl from his school has been diagnosed with leukemia, Greg doesn’t really know how he’s supposed to feel. Bad? He feels sort of bad. He feels worse when his mom tells him that he should call Rachel and hang out with her. As Greg and Rachel become friends (or as close to friendship as Greg can manage), Rachel discovers more about Greg and Earl’s secret film-making careers and even manages to convince them to show some of their films to her.

When Rachel decides to quit treatment for her leukemia, Greg and Earl decide that the thing to do is to make a film for Rachel. After several false starts, they finally manage to create The Worst Film Ever Made, which creates a world of trouble for Greg and forces him to reconsider the way that he relates to the people around him, especially Earl and Rachel.

This is not your typical feel-good teen book. Greg says so several times in the novel, and it’s right there in the title: Rachel is dying. Despite the death and the painfully awkward social anxiety, this book is laugh-out-loud funny. Greg’s self-deprecating narration is hilarious and 100% honest. Earl’s straight-forward, tell-you-like-it-is manner is the perfect foil for Greg’s stand-offishness, and they make a great pair, even if Greg won’t admit it.

Although this book is about a girl with cancer, it is most definitely¬†not a John Green tear-jerker; it’s full of profanity, lewd conversations and accidental marijuana ingestion. Greg doesn’t exactly become a better person by the end of the novel, and there isn’t a clear message other than “sometimes things suck and people die when you don’t want them to.” Still, if you’re looking for a book that will keep you laughing right up until the end with its irreverent humor, this is the book for you!

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