You know how some young adult novels really resonate with adult readers as well? This isn’t one of them… at least, not for this adult reader.
In Just Like the Movies, two girls bond over their love of rom-com movies and decide to use romantic movie strategies to win the boys of their dreams. For track star Marijke, that means going all Say Anything in her boyfriend’s backyard, blasting Peter Gabriel from an IPod dock. (Unfortunately, he’s not home at the time, but his parents are.) For Lily, it means borrowing a page from Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed (kinda) and declaring her interest to the boy she likes.
Meanwhile, we have these two girls, high school seniors, becoming insta-besties within the space of two weeks, learning to see past their differences, and transforming their lives. And yes, there’s a makeover involved, and even some eyebrow tweezing. Plus, an awful lot of talk and fixation on prom proposals — the more elaborate the better — which I didn’t even know was a thing, but apparently it is. At least in this book. And if it’s a thing in real life, then may the gods have mercy on the teens of today. *shudder*
Near the end, there are some minor moments of awakening, as the girls realize that they’re strong and that maybe their lives shouldn’t revolve around the boys they like — at which point, they end up getting the boys anyway.
I was tempted to describe this book as harmless fluff, but I actually can’t. It’s light and fluffy, all right, but I’m not sure that I’d call it harmless. What’s the message here? We have two smart, high achieving girls with horrible esteem and trust issues. Marijke spends most of the book flying into jealous fits because her boyfriend isn’t doing what she wants when she wants. Lily is like every movie shy girl or brainy girl, always working behind the scenes and super good at all her classes, but she’s not one of the popular girls and never gets noticed. (A trip to Marijke’s closet and make-up bag fix that, of course.)
So on the one hand, the books seems to be saying that living one’s life for a boyfriend is a mistake. But on the other hand, once the girls realize that, they still end up getting the perfect romance, complete with prom, that they’ve always wanted. So, you don’t need a boy to be happy… but wait, you kind of do?
Meanwhile, the timeline is bizarrely compacted, with all this drama happening over the space of a few short weeks. It’s just not believable, and not in a charming, rom-com sort of fairy tale way. The movie theme is inconsistent, the messages are muddled, and the girl power just fizzles.
Maybe teen girls will like Just Like the Movies and will swoon over the prom proposals and hunky guys. But I’m guessing not.
Title: Just Like the Movies
Author: Kelly Fiore
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books
Publication date: July 2, 2014
Length: 300 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of Bloomsbury via NetGalley