Review Detail

5.0 1
Young Adult Fiction 704
Better Than The Movies
(Updated: August 03, 2021)
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
BETTER THAN THE MOVIES by Lynn Painter is just about the cutest YA Rom-Com to ever exist. The story follows Liz Buxbaum, who, inspired by her mom’s favorite movies, creates soundtracks for important moments and tries to manipulate her own love life to mimic the scripted ones. Liz thinks her long-awaited meet cute is finally due when Michael, her childhood crush, moves back to town. In order to get him to see her as more than the eccentric kid he knew, Liz has to enlist the help of her difficult next-door-neighbor, Wes, who she’s been in a parking space feud with for at least a year. The more Liz schemes with him, the more she’s forced to examine the difference between what she thinks is good for herself and what actually is— and part of facing that means facing her past.

This book is everything I want when reading this genre. Firstly, the story itself is self-aware. It’s both celebrating the classic rom-com (see the iconic movie quotes at the start of each chapter), as well as deconstructing it. In other words, it pokes at the genre’s flaws, while also upholding its virtues. For instance, there are many classic tropes at play: enemies-to-lovers, friends-to-lovers, boy-next-door, fake relationship, kissing in the rain, huge misunderstanding, etc... Painter throws them all into the mix, but they feel fresh, because she makes us care— and oh boy, did I care about what was going to happen to these characters! Secondly, the romance is swoony! The way that Painter builds the tension is excellent, and she knows exactly when to release it so it feels earned.

What Liz is going through outside of her dating drama is also thoroughly developed, and I appreciate that her struggles connect back to the same root trauma that’s sabotaging her happiness in all areas of her life. Most people can trace a lot of their problems back to a childhood event, and Liz is no different. Because of this, she feels like a three-dimensional person, as does most of the other characters. I especially like how Laney is introduced to us, through Liz’s gaze, and then we as readers get to decide how we feel about her. I also love Helena and find her to be pretty sympathetic.

That being said, BETTER THAN THE MOVIES is a self-fulling prophesy of a title, because it ranks right up there with some of the best. This book is perfect for fans of 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU and EASY A, and really anyone who just wants a good laugh and warm feelings. I was in a bit of a slump when I started this book, and I read it in under two days. In fact, I’d love to see what Liz and Wes get up to in college! I can’t wait to read more from this author.
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