Title: It Only Happens in the Movies
Author: Holly Bourne
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe filmmaker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…
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.
I have heard nothing but glowing praises about Holly Bourne’s novels, which is why I immediately signed up for Erika’s blog tour without a second thought and without reading the book’s synopsis. If I’m being completely honest, when I received my review copy in the mail, the blindingly yellow book cover made me cringe.
I know, I know. There’s the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” saying, but for Christ’s sake, the cover has a bunch of popcorn all over it! If that isn’t a telltale warning that I was in for the cheesiest of reads, then what is? But I’m beginning to babble. Now that I’ve actually read the book, I can’t adequately express how badly I want to eat my words. And maybe even some popcorn dusted with cinnamon.
I mean, wow, I’m blown away by how gripping and socially relevant It Only Happens in the Movies is. Moreover, I am completely stunned and in awe of Holly Bourne’s talent and writing style. Her latest YA novel has all the ingredients of a typical, lovable contemporary romance, and yet simultaneously manages to be the complete antithesis of a typical, lovable contemporary romance in a way that makes people absolutely invested in Audrey’s story.
It Only Happens in the Movies is, no doubt, a beautifully written romance with a compelling female lead and a charming love interest everyone can root for. Audrey, with her unapologetic feminist ideals and distinctive voice, is a great character on her own. Harry, with his goofy flirtations and obvious passion for filmmaking, is also a great character on his own. But put those two together and we get the cutest banter and explosive chemistry from a couple we can’t help but adore!
Make no mistake, though. It Only Happens in the Movies is more than a feel-good, cutesy story about two people falling in love fast and hard. In fact, in the novel, Bourne writes about mental health problems, self-harm, dubious consent during sexual activities, and emotional manipulation in relationships – all of which were handled carefully, thoughtfully, and sensitively.
Above everything else, It Only Happens in the Movies is a no-holds-barred honest social commentary, which sheds light on the “taboo” and defiantly challenges society’s ideal perceptions on love, romance, and relationships. Not only does Bourne debunk the clichés and stereotypes of romance films (and indirectly questions the societal standards of romance), but also, through Audrey’s voice and narrative, criticizes the portrayal of women both in films and literature.
The constant question in It Only Happens in the Movies is this: “Where is the rest?” And this is an important question that, more often than not, we forget to ask ourselves as we swoon over the heroine and love interest in any story told in any medium. As a Mass Communication student, I know the limitations of any media platform – be it written or visual. Sometimes, we forget that stories in films and books don’t necessarily capture the entire picture. Instead, what we see are fragments of a reality or of a universe we are only briefly introduced to, and more often than not, these fragments are “the good parts” of the story – the parts that are charming, that we repeatedly swoon over, that we find desirable, and that lead the audience to the inevitable happy ending.
Additionally, all throughout the story, we get to witness concepts and scenes that are hardly ever acknowledged in most YA literature, such as openly talking about a girl’s menstrual cycle to misconceptions about having sex for the first time to how the sentence “you’re not like other girls” isn’t actually a compliment. I guess what I’m really trying to say is: It Only Happens in the Movies is a brilliantly realistic, wonderfully poignant, socially relevant YA novel that all young adults should read. It is refreshingly insightful and extremely empowering. I have never read anything like it before, and needless to say, I am now officially a huge Holly Bourne fan.
Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of It Only Happens in the Movies as part of my participation in a blog tour hosted by The Nocturnal Fey. This neither affects my opinion nor the content of my review. Many thanks to Erika @ The Nocturnal Fey as well as the publisher for the opportunity!
Excerpt from the book:
Harry was miraculously quiet, his face uncharacteristically serious. He looked up at me, and our eyes met properly for the first time. Him staring at me, me staring at him. This boy I didn’t know, sitting on my purple duvet. He smiled without his teeth. Small, shyly. I found myself smiling back. Like an impulse.
Then he ruined it by saying…
“You’re not like other girls, are you?”
And I activated.
Every single emotion I’d been squashing into my guts exploded like a burst appendix. I jumped off the bed and turned to him with a scowl I was sure he’d need permanent therapy to recover from. “Are you kidding me, Harry?”