Andrew’s chapter titles are WAY better than my post titles. Proof.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews (2012)

I don’t know what it is about my spring reading habits, but so far this season I’ve read two YA novels that are simultaneously about a girl dying of cancer and laugh-out-loud funny (Mr. Green’s The Fault in Our Stars being the first one, of course).

Greg Gaines is entering his senior year of high school, otherwise known as his fourth year of attempting to be invisible in the eyes of the student body. His low-key friendliness and self-deprecating humor have allowed him to ease through the school hallways without attracting much attention. Instead of joining any clubs or teams, he directs and stars in super-secret remakes of his favorite films with his short, angry partner-in-crime, Earl. Things are running smoothly, until, of course, Greg’s mom forces him to hang out with a girl from school who is dying. And how does an awkward teenage boy react to that situation? Needless to say, not well.

Greg narrates this tale of his downward-spiraling senior year interspersed with lists, script dialogue (there’s a word for that in film-lingo, isn’t there? Clearly I’m a film dunce), asides to the reader, and lots of bad language (which I find particularly amusing).

Here’s what made this book so great: It felt more real than anything I’ve read in a long time. I mean, I loved TFiOS as much as the next book blogger, but… it had the magical fiction glow. You know. The perfect lines, the honorable intentions, the nice bow ending. Me and Earl, on the other hand, didn’t…. glow, per se. In fact, in many places Greg acknowledges what would have happened in the “fictional” version of this story and points out that those things did not happen in this story. Instead, Greg says the stupid things. He has opinions and reactions that are far from honorable. And the ending lacks a bow. It’s fresh, invigorating, and WILL make you laugh.

Also, every page that includes Earl is a good one. Thank goodness he’s on many of them.

2.5 stars, mostly for Earl. Favorite debut so far.

I now present Mindy, my new BFF.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling (2011)

I have a thing for female humor writers. They’ve gotten me through more than a few tough times. I first read Laurie Notaro’s The Idiot Girl’s Action Adventure Club after getting a bad health diagnosis. I read Heather Armstrong’s It Sucked and Then I Cried when I was lonely living on my own for the first time. And now, with the death of a loved one, I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Most of you probably know Mindy Kaling from her role as narcissistic, boy-crazy, somewhat-idiotic Kelly Kapoor on NBC’s The Office. Many of you probably don’t know that she actually plays a much bigger role behind scenes, writing, producing and directing episodes of the show. In fact, she is responsible for my very favorite episode (The Injury) in which Michael steps on his George Forman grill and Dwight gets a concussion. It makes me chortle every time. I’ve been following her for a while on Twitter (@mindykaling), so I knew that Mindy is much more hilarious and way less annoying than her Office character and I’ve been anticipating reading this for months. But she went above and beyond my expectations with this one. It was like a love letter to me the reader, acquainting me to my new best friend.

It goes without saying that I’ve never actually met Mindy. But to me, this read so honestly that I feel like she is a completely normal human being that would probably be my friend if we had gone to the same elementary school or lived in the same building. We have the same concerns, problems, and hilarious opinions, which she organizes into chapters like, “I Am Not an Athlete,” “Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities,” Non-Traumatic Things That Have Made Me Cry,” and “Why Do Men Put on Their Shoes So Slowly?” The chapters are short, lists and embarrassing pictures appear throughout, and it’s real fun to read aloud, even if the only person around to listen to you is your father or a fish named Charles.

Pick this sucker up, but only if you don’t mind snorting in public.

2.5 stars

Deep in the hundred acre wood

 Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne (1926)

I’m taking Children’s Lit this semester, and this was on deck for our “Classics” week. And let me tell you, the edition I have is a classic. It’s so classic, the inscription on the inside cover, directly over “Kanga’s House” and a place “Nice for Piknicks”, reads “Jeannie Jipson FL2-6545”. Yep. My mom’s childhood phone number. Back when numbers started with letters. What a silly system.

Between the covers (held together by two pieces of scotch tape) is a delightful collection of the silliest stories about the Bear and his pals, namely Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, Roo, and Christopher Robin (note: Tigger doesn’t come around until The House at Pooh Corner, which–by the way– I have internally memorized due to countless repeats of my House at Pooh Corner audio tape).  This book has charm, mostly because of the innocent misunderstandings of its characters and Pooh’s ridiculous song-writing capabilities.

Tra-la-la, tra-la-la, rum-tum-tiddle-um-tum. 

Read this to your kiddos, friends, and you’ll be giggling right along with them.

2.5 stars

Who knew labor could be so hilarious?

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita by Heather B. Armstrong (2009)

I have finally finished this glorious book. It took me several weeks, because I was consumed by reading other things where plot was much more the focus, rather than this one that lives on HILARITY, but I’m glad I let it last so long. A little bit each day did a lot for my moods. I feel bad, because I’m sure my neighbor could hear me laughing late into the night from my cozy bed.

Heather Armstrong, the creator of what is supposedly the most popular personal blog on the internet, dooce.com (also hilarious, check it out), put together a captivating memoir of her pregnancy and first nine months with her first daughter, Leta. What  resulted for the reader was a strange collision of excellent birth-control (I NEVER want to experience hemorrhoids!) and an enormous desire to have a baby RIGHT NOW (how else am I going to smell that sweet baby smell?).

Although it’s obvious how much she loves little Leta, Armstrong doesn’t gloss over the not-so-pleasant points of pregnancy and new-motherhood. In fact, she is quite blunt with all the struggles she encounters. With a history of clinical depression, Armstrong is forced to lay off anti-depressants during her pregnancy and nursing period, which almost (literally) causes the death of her. She ends up spending some time in a treatment facility, getting back on drugs, and as a result becomes a much happier person, wife, and mother. Through the roller-coaster 18 months, and punctuated with a letter to Baby Leta each month (a tradition she still continues in her blog, 72 months later) the reader gets a glimpse of what being a mother really means.

With capitalization to emphasize her truly hilarious points and chapter titles like “Labor to the Tune of Janet Jackson’s Nipple” and “You Have to Feed the Baby…Through Your Boobs,” Armstrong keeps you laughing till the very end, a rare and incredible talent.

Three stars, absolutely.