It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne is a book that has a lot of potential but failed to deliver, in my opinion. I loved the feminist messages as well as the indie cinema setting, but I had trouble connecting with the main characters. As well, I am not the biggest fan of books in which the message is made explicitly clear and is constantly pushed on the reader, and that is what happened in this case. While this one wasn’t my favourite, there are still some aspects I found enjoyable, and those interested in books about cinema, feminism, and mental health might enjoy it.Title: It Only Happens in the Movies
Author: Holly Bourne
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date: December 1, 2020
From award-winning British author Holly Bourne comes a clever, deconstructed rom-com that proves that in real life “girl meets boy” doesn't always mean “happily ever after” . . . or does it? At turns funny, feminist, and achingly real, this read is perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Patrick Ness, and Julie Buxbaum.
Audrey is over romance. While dealing with her parents’ contentious divorce, a breakup of her own, and shifting friendship dynamics, she has every reason to feel cynical. But then she meets Harry, her fellow coworker at the local cinema. He’s brash, impulsive, and a major flirt. And even though Audrey tries to resist, she finds herself falling for his charms. But in this funny, insightful, and ultimately empowering novel, love—and life—isn’t what it’s like in the movies.
❃ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. ❃
Review: It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne
This book tells the story of a girl who is frustrated with the way relationships are portrayed in the movies, and she gets a job at an indie cinema as an escape from home. Also working at the cinema is a boy who is making his own zombie movie, and what follows is a romance unlike that depicted in the movies. I loved the indie cinema setting as well as the scenes of Harry and Audrey actually making the movie, and the book challenges many common romance tropes. This is a feminist story that feels realistic, and it is a fresh take on a rom com.
❀ Main Characters aren’t stellar
Honestly, I didn’t love either of the main characters. Both of them are fine, but not stellar. There are aspects I loved about Audrey, such as her strength and her ability to call out misogyny (both in the movies and in society), but also, something about her didn’t sit right with me. She seemed whiny to me at times, but I also feel like she expects too much from Harry. Before they got together, multiple people warned her about him, and she knew he did certain things she didn’t like. Yet, she still had expectations that Harry would never have been able to meet. I was also put off by a scene near the end of the book, which I won’t spoil, but to me, it contradicted everything Audrey stood for earlier, especially about consent. I never really felt a spark in Harry and Audrey’s relationship, and I had trouble connecting with them.
❀ Feminist Message
I think part of the reason why I had some trouble with this is book is because I enjoyed its feminist message, but I didn’t really like the way this message is delivered. This might just be me, but I feel like there are more subtle ways to get the message across than telling us why a certain romance trope is harmful at the beginning of a chapter and then immediately subverting it. I feel like the author comes across as though she’s trying too hard to subvert conventional rom com tropes, and while the book does contain important messages, I got sick of having them pushed in my face. Also, I’m not sure how I feel about all the criticism of romance movies and how they aren’t realistic. Yes, there are absolutely some problematic tropes, but others are less harmful to me, and romance movies are generally are not meant to be like real life. Sometimes, we just need an escape, and I think that we should be allowed to have our fun.
❀ A book with a lot of potential
Ultimately, It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne is a feminist novel with an interesting setting. The book has a lot of potential, but I couldn’t connect with either of the characters, and I wasn’t a fan of the way each trope is explicitly subverted, really pushing the message of the book at the reader. However, I know that many will find this book empowering, and I would recommend it to cinephiles.