Happy Thursday, Reading Nook!
Today, I'm reviewing the fabulous Just Like the Movies. I've wanted to read this from the second that I saw the Publisher's Weekly announcement, and luckily for me - Bloomsbury kindly sent me a copy!
This is a sweet, smart tale on what it means to find true love and how to remain true to yourself in the meantime.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: July 22nd 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Format read: ARC via Publisher
Marijke can’t get her boyfriend to say “I love you” and Lily can’t get a boyfriend at all. When the girls end up at a late night showing ofTitanic, sniffling along with the sinking ship, they realize that their love lives could—and should—be better. Which sparks an idea: Why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they create perfect romantic situations? Now they have a budding friendship and a plan—to act out grand gestures and get the guys of their dreams.
It seems like fun at first, but reality turns out to be much more complicated, and they didn’t take into account that finding true love usually requires finding yourself first.
Fortunately for me, the lovely ladies over at Bloomsbury kindly obliged my request, and sent an ARC my way. After reading it, I think I can safely say that this book not only fulfilled all of my expectations, it also soundly exceeded them.
In Just Like the Movies, Kelly Fiore introduces us to Marijke and Lily, two very different girls with one very similar take on romance: it's never as good as what they see in the movies. Marijke is unable to get her rocker boyfriend to say "I love you", while Lily, who is jaded by her mom's less-than-successful relationships, is scared of pursuing the one guy she really wants.
Fiore does a great job of setting up an alternating storyline between two girls who would like nothing more than for their romantic lives to better reflect what they see on the silver screen. Both Marijke and Lily are distinctive voices with considerable film knowledge that ranges from Say Anything to Pitch Perfect, and readers will likely find their eagerness to recreate these film moments for their own lives, a whole lot of fun.
However, after the carefully-planned scenarios don't go according to plan, the girls gradually begin to realize that impressing that the boys they like isn't always the most important factor in life. Without hammering readers over the head with the idea that this is turning into a Very Important Life Lesson, Fiore subtly interweaves some significant and intelligent dilemmas into lives of both girls, which gets them to reconsider just how and when they let a guy - cute as he may be! - influence their decisions.
On Marijke's side, Fiore does a great job of emphasizing her inner strengths and talents, and her growing recognition that she doesn't have to let her boyfriend define her. I loved the fact that Marijke readily admits that she was initially going to chose a college based on Tommy, and gradually begins to recognize that letting a boy define her choices and her future, just isn't the smartest thing to do.
Despite being "popular", Marijke's struggles to define herself beyond her high school classmates and her high school clique, is a pretty sound reminder that being popular doesn't always mean the grass is greener on the other side and there is always still growing up to do - a dual lesson that many readers will likely appreciate.
Lily, who has spent a lifetime being perfect but not actually experiencing all that life has to offer, is conversely faced with the realization that even if she doesn't initially get everything that she wants, it's important to put herself out there - the end results may surprise her.
Though Fiore gives Lily a romantic interest that is just as charming and complicated as Marijke's, readers will likely find themselves more interested in the inner workings Lily's family life. Her mother's own desire to chase romances that rivals the ones she's seen in movies has often defined the relationship that she's had with Lily and her brother, and Lily's handling of that situation is both poignant and a reminder that it's never too late to choose positive focus on one's self.
Ultimately, while some readers may feel like that the realizations and life lessons made by both girls is eventually overshadowed by the relatively neat ending of the book, I think that Fiore's book definitely brings up great lessons, while also cheerfully reminds readers that it's possible to learn and grow, while still having your hoped-for cinematic ending.
Things to consider:
I've seen some reviewers mention the fact that they didn't think Tommy was a good boyfriend, and were a bit bothered by Marijke's Tommy-invoked insecurities.
While I didn't especially like Tommy either, I think that Fiore's depiction of his personality and his relationship with Marijke is very true to real life. People aren't perfect in high school, and relationships at that age aren't going to be like the perfect high school romances that people often see in films and movies.
Fiore's acknowledgment of that, and her tacit recognition that it's okay to have a relationship with someone who isn't perfect as long as both parties are on equal footing , is a a pretty sensible and great lesson for readers to ultimately learn.
I know that this is a lesson that I want the female teenagers I work with to integrate into their own lives, and I'm looking forward to giving them copies of this book.
I went into the book thinking that it was going to be a fantastic and charming romance - and it definitely was that! - but I also got a great story on what it means to look beyond romance and cute boys, and how you can find yourself in the process. Both Marijke and Lilly have cute romantic love interests, but are also able to find strength and empowerment in their own lives, in a way that makes this more than just a cute summer read.
I highly recommend this book for YA contemporary fans, but also for educators and parents who are looking for a fantastic and thoughtful book that's both fun for readers and also has some great life lessons. This is the book that you want to give to your best girlfriends, and the younger and older women in your life, so you can laugh, cry and swoon over this story together.
About the author:
Kelly Fiore has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2005 and 2009. Kelly’s poetry has appeared in Small Spiral Notebook, Samzidada, Mid Atlantic Review, Connotation Press, and the Grolier Annual Review. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA. Forthcoming books include Just Like the Movies, again from Bloomsbury, in 2014 and The People Vs. Cecelia Price from HarperTeen in 2015.