To be honest, I wasn’t really interested in picking up this book at first until I found out that it was set in my hometown and that the author did grow up here. And I’m a sucker for books/media set here. (See my utter fangirling of Perks of Being a Wallflower.) Support local talent!I did like this, but it’s not up to the fangirl level. There’s definitely a few surprises in this, mostly with the characterization, but overall, it’s a very straightforward story that doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre. What works in its favor is that it’s probably one of the more realistic “Teens dealing with cancer/death of a friend” books. There’s no huge philosophical revelations, no outwardly declarations of love, and no massively quirky characters. (And yes, I had to put TFIOS completely out of my head while reading this.) The reason it’s realistic is that the three main characters—Greg, Earl and Rachel—are actually kind of boring. They’re not going off and pulling crazy stunts or read interesting books or being smarter than everyone else they know. They actually feel like real teens who don’t really do much. You could argue that Greg and Earl fulfill the quirk requirement insofar as they make films, but when you look at the kind of films they make, it reads like something two teenage boys would probably come up with. They’re not creative, and to be honest, it’s nice to read something where the teens are boring. It makes it feel more grounded in reality. I like that even by the end of the book, we still don’t really know the kind of person Rachel was. I also like the relationships Greg has with both Rachel and Earl. Greg and Earl read like two actual teenage boys, who just sit around and bullshit with each other all of the time. I liked that they find this common ground with video games and violent media and yet, they’re able to do something interesting with it. And by the end, they’ve managed to get closer, but there’s this bittersweet feeling that they’ll probably drift away. And I also like that while Greg is initially hesitant to go and see Rachel again, I like that he just wants to make her smile. Sure, it ends up with Greg repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth, but again, that feels like something that a teenage boy would do. Multiple times. As for the local references, there really isn’t much hinging on the fact that it takes place in Pittsburgh, but it adds a nice touch to the setting and the story’s background. (I loved the reference to the University of Pitt being referred to as Carnegie-Mellon’s “older, dumber brother.”)The plot’s very thin, but this is a book that really focuses on characterization, so it doesn’t bother me as much. The writing does. I do like some of it, like whenever Greg’s talking with another character, it switches to script pages (which really helps the whole filmmaking angle.) The whole thing is written by Greg himself, who feels the need to tell you how much this book sucks and why are you even reading this piece of crap. Repeatedly. I didn’t mind it much at the beginning, but he does it every other chapter and it does jar you out of the book. And I would have liked to have seen more of Greg’s family—if there’s any characters who seem to be there for the sake of being quirky, it’s them. Aside from Greg’s mother, they really don’t add much to the story. It is a pretty decent read, and I would check it just because it’s not the standard “boy-meets-girl, changes each other’s lives, one dies horribly from an accident/disease.” The writing style does bring it down a little more than it should, but it’s worth a read.