Greg is a self-confident boy of 17 who doesn’t think he is self-confident. He tries to get through life by neither befriending anyone nor annoying them. His only friend is Earl, a tough kid from the wrong side of the tracks. What they love is making films – very bad films.
Then his mother makes him spend time with Rachel, who he knows from Hebrew School and who is now ill with cancer – but from the very start the narrator tells you that if you are expecting a heart-warming romance and teenage coming-of-age story you will be disappointed. While Greg gradually begins to be absorbed into school society, he isn’t happy. But by the end, Rachel and Earl make Greg see that his life is okay, that he has no real reason to feel like an outsider, and that he is just very self-absorbed and unaware of what is going on around him.
It is amusing and there are some very funny lines but ‘alien barf’ jokes probably work better on teenagers than on me. It is written in a variety of ways, including a film script style, which stays just this side of irritating. Then again my sympathies lie with the teacher who has to deal with a student quoting Klaus Kinski dialogue in German – even if it is quite funny. Sometimes I feel the author tries too hard to have zany and eccentric characters, believable though they are. While it wears thin at times, overall this is an amusing and, despite itself, moving book.