The greatest love story ever told doesn't feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies... YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.
Received in exchange for an honest review from Usborne Publishing UK.
There's like 671943 things I want to say right now but first off, this book? You need it in your life ASAP.
I wouldn't have thought I'd love a Holly Bourne book more than I did What's a Girl Gotta Do? but joke's on me because she has now come up with this absolute perfection and I cannot. I tell you, Holly Bourne has just nailed it. Whatever it is that makes an author just click with YA audiences. Whatever it is that allows an author portay teenage it all its glorious messiness realistically. And I for one, can't ever have enough of that.
It Only Happens in the Movies follows the story of Audrey as she gets a job at a cinema in order to escape her problems in real life, especially back home. Here's where she meets Harry, a boy with a reputation with girls- so much so that she's warned about multiple times through various people. I know what you're thinking now- meh, bad boy?
We see where that's going a mile away, don't we? Nope. We don't.
Holly Bourne essentially satirizes romance films in this latest book, with every trope you can think of being challenged. Audrey is currently sworn off boys after a relationship that didn't quite work out, and romance is the last thing she's looking for when she starts working at Flicker. Things at home are at an all-time low, with her divorced father stirring up trouble for them, her brother being away at uni and her mother on a downward spiral. Things at school aren't that great either, with Audrey having to think of not facing her ex-boyfriend Milo, his current girlfriend and their public displays of affection at every turn, her friends being so understanding, too understanding perhaps, when she only feels guilty for pushing them away, and her poor choice in subjects- particularly dropping Drama, the one thing she was passionate about, because of Milo.
When Harry brings up the zombie film he was directing and how pressed he is for a good female lead, Audrey sees it as a welcome distraction and signs up for it after much encouragement from her fellow coworker LouLou. What she didn't sign up for was having her feelings getting stirred again and her heart showing signs of life again. But romance was never like in the movies, was it? Was she just opening herself up for things to only end in heartbreak all over again?
“I AM like other girls, Harry. Don’t misinterpret my hatred of romance as some kooky, laid-back, manic pixie NONSENSE. I am DAMAGED. I am not CUTE. I am emotionally-fucking-traumatized right now, okay? I am screaming on the inside. I am too angry and messed-up to contain all the stuff girls spend every day containing. That’s why I seem different. That is not sexy.”
What I loved most about the book was the characters. Starting with the fiercely feminist, strongly opinionated Audrey to the bad-boy-turned-good (or has he?) Harry to her new gay best friend Leroy, everyone is given importance and isn't just there to tick off a tab in a checklist to have a colourful ensemble of characters. Audrey is pretty much bordering on cynical when it comes to love because of her parents failed marriage, and this reflects on her media project, where she decides to start analysing everything harmful that romance films portray and project as romance.
Right from the great class divide (you know that one- where they both come from vastly different worlds and fall in love despite all odds) to the big date to the big mistake, and finally, the grand gesture, the author takes all the classic cliches that are done to death in romance movies and compares them with real life, showing them for how they really turn out. Even though I could see the ending coming from a mile away, I still was rooting for things to turn otherwise, and while the story did leave me sliiightly heartbroken, I still did love it and I'm beyond happy that Audrey could take that decision in light of everything that happened. The book also deals with teenage sex in a way only Holly Bourne can- just think the right amount of Meg Cabot and Judy Blume? That's this.
Another thing that absolutely must be mentioned is how well the relationships are portrayed. We see the tough love Leroy gives Audrey and how that helps her, and also the suffocatingly sweet love her other friends have for her and I'm so, so glad she had such a group of amazing friends for her. I loved how they worked through their relationship despite Audrey essentially cutting them off from her life post Milo breaking up with her. Can I just say we all deserve amazing friends? The family dynamics are done brilliantly as well. We see what the divorce and everything else does to Audrey's mom (did I mention how romantic her parents used to be? Audrey was even named after Audrey Hepburn!), and we see how Audrey's dad gets on with his life with little to no regard for the family he has left behind, we also see how Audrey's brother reacts to all this and it's all. done. so. well.
I could go on but I think I'd better stop here right now before I give everything away. In conclusion, I wouldn't be lying if I said this is the best Holly Bourne book I've read so far, and it fulfilled all my expectations and more. There are legit laugh-out-loud moments, heartbreaking ones and enlightening ones as well, and you need this book in your life- whether you're a fan of contemporary romance or not.
“Romance films ruin people’s real-life relationships. They offer this idea of love that isn’t sustainable in normal life. It’s dan… It’s…pathetic?”
The story idea: 5/5
The realization of the story: 5/5
The characters: 5/5
The cover: 4/5
Enjoy factor: 5/5