This book is what I wanted The Fault in Our Stars to be. It's infinitely superior in pretty much every way. No insta-love, no pompous, maudlin speeches that no real teen would ever utter in seriousness, no hot guys being forgiven for creepy staring because they're hot, and no kissing in Anne Frank's house. This book treats terminal illness like the unromantic destroyer of lives that it is, yet at the same time manages to be hilarious. And thoughtful. And sort of deep while appearing to be shallow. It's kind of brilliant.
Greg Gaines is a human being, and not of the idealized-for-fiction variety. He thinks he's chubby and unattractive and wants nothing more than to not draw attention to himself. He also thinks he's a jackass, displaying a self-awareness that's both endearing and frustrating as he recognizes his jackass behavior but is powerless to stop it. He feels real and about as regular as a teenage guy can get, and that all by itself would put this book so far out of TFIOS's league that if TFIOS went supernova this book wouldn't see the explosion for a berjillion years at least.
And then there's the story itself, which feels so true to life that readers young and old will be able to relate to it on multiple levels. I couldn't read this book in bed while my husband was sleeping because it made me laugh too hard. I saw so much of myself in Greg, which in itself is an amazing feat of literary awesomeness. How much could a real 37-yr-old woman and a fictional 17-yr-old boy have in common? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Except for the boob fetish. I definitely haven't got one of those.
If you're sensitive about language, fair warning: there is quite a bit of swearing, almost to the point of feeling gratuitous (IMO). And there were bonus giggles for me every time a Jewish character said "Jesus!" I am so easily amused sometimes.