Expected publication date: July 22, 2014
Pretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got great friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with Tommy Lawson.
Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future – she’s participated in every extracurricular activity and volunteer committee she could. But, at home, she watches her mother go on date after date with dud-dudes, still searching for “the one.” Lily realizes that she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend.
While they live on each other’s periphery at school, Lily and Marijke never seemed to have much in common; but, after a coincidental meeting at the movie theater, Lily gets an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using movie techniques?
Once the girls come up with the perfect plans, they commit themselves to being secret cohorts and, just like in the movies, drama ensues.
Warning: this is going to be one of those deeply personal reviews for me – I’m not even sure it’s a review, it’s…I don’t know what it is. An essay? Philosophical thoughts? I don’t know. But I hope you’ll read on and find out why this book affected me so much, and why it might work for you.
Just Like the Movies is one of those books that would normally be a really cute, light summer romance for me. It’s a book that you can read really quickly (I finished in about 2.5 hours!), and just soak in the fun. Normally, it would probably get a “fun, but not super memorable” rating from me…except for the fact that one of the characters was exactly like me as a teenager.
When I first heard about this plot, I knew I had to get my hands on this novel, because I asked that question everyday in high school and during my first year in college: “Why isn’t life more like the movies?” As a teenager, I soaked in stories – I lost myself in movies and I read books voraciously, and I dreamt of love like I saw in Ever After or 10 Things I Hate About You. I really wanted to make my life like a romance movie, because I wanted every moment of my life to have meaning.
When I got this ARC, I knew I’d be reading about characters who were like me, who always wanted to make those perfect scenes happen, and even though I knew that the book reenactments probably wouldn’t turn out as perfectly as the characters hoped they would, I knew I was going to connect with the characters right away. Throw in the fact that the writing was super-engaging, and I was completely on board.
I definitely identified with Marijke in her one-sided relationship with Tommy, and the fact that he took her for granted. I admired and saw myself in some of the gutsy moves she made in order to keep her relationship together: at one point, she commissions a flash mob to show Tommy how much she loves him (a throwback to lots of rom-coms, but especially Friends with Benefits). She’s strong and sassy and a genuinely nice character.
HOWEVER. Very rarely do I come across a character who is literal representation of who I was as a teenager. Lily is just that – she’s a bit sarcastic, definitely self-deprecating; a brainy girl who does a ton for the school, but despite how much she does, she’s pretty much invisible to everyone. She’s not part of any crowd. She doesn’t know how to dress. She has “people she’s friendly with, but not actual friends.”
The book alternates between Lily and Marijke’s points of view, and I can’t get over how many passages in Lily’s parts I highlighted. They were the things I thought in high school. They were the things I felt in high school. I thought I’d be squirmy over them, but they kind of made me a bit teary because, guys, Kelly Fiore GETS me. She gets why I think the way I do, and she made Lily real to me.
“It’s kind of weird to be such a big part of things but not a part of things at all,” Lily narrates early on in the novel. “At least not enough to be recognized. Most of the time, I just try to convince myself that I don’t care.” This was me in high school. I was the girl who was involved with everything, who organized a lot of things, but I was never really a part of things. Those lines are exactly how I lived through my high school experience, and it was both painful and cathartic for me to see myself represented through this book. Even when Lily takes a chance on Joe later on in the book, it reminded me of my own experience asking a boy to prom for the first time.
Fiore makes Lily completely visible, centre stage in a novel, and I’m so grateful, because, like Lily, I always thought of myself as a secondary character – someone who helps along the plot for the hero and heroine by making the school dance happen. In high school, I never thought I could be a main character.
This book made me realize that maybe, just maybe, someone was noticing me in high school. Because for Fiore to write such a marked, perfect description of who I was…she was watching, and I am just…so grateful for it. Even as an adult, I felt empowered and just…noticed, because I mattered enough to be a main character in her novel.
|Me with my BFF in high school. We’re not friends anymore,
but I’m grateful he was around at just the right point in my life.
But then Fiore takes it one step further. When her main characters, Lily and Marijke hatch their plot and put their scenes into action, they become friends. And like my own life when I finally found a BFF in high school, that friendship is more meaningful than either of them realize.
More than anything, what Just Like the Movies celebrates is having a connection with another person. Finding someone you’re able to tell everything to, and finding someone with whom you can be yourself. It’s only when they fight that Marijke realizes what she’s losing: “They say you can fall in love at first sight. What about falling into friendship? Can you become BFFs over the course of a few short weeks?”
Honestly, to me – and this is my one and only criticism of the book, and it might be kind of a SPOILER – the story should have focused on just Lily and Marijke’s friendship, because that’s enough. The book works so well with their realization of what they mean to each other, and how movies fit into that. The romance part is almost an afterthought.
But I think Fiore wanted to end on the romance because she wanted to remind us that we all do long for that movie script ending sometimes. We want things to magically resolve like a movie, or, dare I say it, like a YA book. As an adult who reads YA, I recognize that things aren’t always like that, and that sometimes, YA and movies are mainly an escape from a gritty and unfair reality.
But at the same time, reading a book like Just Like the Movies makes me all the more grateful for the moments of magic that do exist in our lives – whether they be through discovering books or other stories, or through our own realities. Even though Just Like the Movies cautions you not to live your life hoping for that perfection or trying to create it, it also celebrates those moments when life does feel perfect, without you even trying.
Name A Rom-Com: It’s pretty fun reading Fiore’s descriptions of my favourite rom-coms and their best scenes – Easy A, Mean Girls, Never Been Kissed, The Cutting Edge (one of my personal faves, trailer above)…there are so many mentioned in this book, and it totally made me want to go and watch every one of them again.
The Final Word:
Here’s the thing: Just Like the Movies isn’t super deep, and it’s not meant to be. But it hit me hard because it reminded me so much of myself as a teenager . The novel is fun, fast-paced, and adorable, but it also has some wisdom that I think will really resonate with teens, and even with some adults. Some people will see it in the way Kelly Fiore gently pokes fun at the rom-com cliches. Some will see it in the characters themselves, like I did. And some people will see it as a reminder to seize those moments when life really does feel like the movies, and to hold on tight.
JUST LIKE THE MOVIES comes out on Tuesday, July 22nd. Will you be picking it up? Do you imagine yourself in rom-coms like I did? Do you have books that deeply affect you in a personal way? And how much do books and movies play into your ideas of what friendship and love are? Hit up the comments if you have thoughts!