When Everything Feels Like the Movies – Raziel Reid
School is just like a film set: there’s The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn’t fit in. He’s not part of The Crew because he isn’t about to do anything unless it’s court-appointed; he’s not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he’s not a Movie Star because even though everyone know his name like an A-lister, he isn’t invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.
Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It’s a total train wreck!
But train wrecks always make the front page.
I honestly don’t know if this book is making as big a buzz in the rest of the world as it is here in Canada, but it’s been one of THOSE books – the ones that make people stop and notice YA without being dismissive. A book that talks about a difficult situation that not everyone has dealt with. A book that brings LGBTQ issues to the forefront and doesn’t shy away from making you THINK.
After winning the Governor General’s Literary Award, plus being a Canada Reads choice, When Everything Feels Like the Movies has been criticized and defended in pretty much equal measure. I’ll be honest: I really wanted to read it because of all the attention it’s been getting. I thought, “FINALLY, people are taking a YA book SERIOUSLY” so I was determined to find out what it was about this book that was so controversial (shout out to Ro who bought it for me for Easter!).
You wanna know why it’s controversial? The amount of sexual content. Sex (or “relations”) is mentioned in 90% of YA books, but keep in mind that Jude and his sleeps-with-literally-every-guy-in-town best friend Angela are not even in high school yet. Is it awkward? Yeah, a bit. Is it realistic? Well, considering how many times you hear about pregnant 12 year olds, there’s probably some truth to their behaviour, right?
So that, I think, is what makes it so hard for “adults” (i.e. people who’ve never read a YA book before) to accept. Underage drinking and smoking (not just smoking, but pretty much all the drugs), plus sexual relationships in a YA novel?! AND SWEARING?! THE HORROR.
That being said…it is quite graphic. More so than your average YA, so, even though Jude is in grade eight, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest handing this to a middle grade reader. Unless they’re really mature, of course.
Actually, who knows – maybe it would be helpful for a middle grade reader – someone Jude’s age who is struggling with his/her identity in much the same way, to have a character that they can relate to.
My favourite part was the last couple of chapters. I had started to guess where Jude’s story would lead him, and, while I had predicted it, it was still a poignant, thought-provoking moment. It hits you hard and fast and what’s even more shocking is that it was inspired by a true story.
I don’t think I would have guessed the ending if I hadn’t read this article about Raziel Reid a month or so ago. So maybe don’t read that article if you’re planning on reading WEFLTM?
Another thing I liked: the writing. For the most part, I thought Jude sounded like your standard teen (or pre-teen or whatever he technically is), but there were some lovely turns of phrase. Reid and I are the same age, but his prose has a certain flow to it that I’m still learning, and for his writing alone, he deserved to be the youngest person to win a GG.
I have to confess that I couldn’t relate to any of the characters and there were some who I didn’t like at all (I’m looking at you, unfaithful Angela). But, while that might normally be a problem for me, I felt like the book was compelling enough that I could almost ignore the annoyances and just focus on the story, even if it felt like it took a while to start.
I think this is an important book. I think there are a lot of people who struggle with the same things as Jude and not enough people are paying attention to them in a positive, constructive way, verses the amount of people who pay negative, harmful attention. I think it’s amazing that this book is making people talk – even if they choose to focus on the “offensive” parts and not on the actual message – and, as a champion of YA books in general, I am, of course, thrilled that people are finally starting to see that young adult books are, in fact, just as important as “adult” books.