Review: It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

It Only Happens in the Movies
by Holly Bourne

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 film-maker 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 clich├ęs. Oh, and zombies... YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Expected Publication date:  October 1st 2017
Source/Format: Finished paperback from the publisher. (This, in now way affects the integrity of my review)
Pre-order links: Amazon | Google Play | Book Depository
My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts:
Audrey Winters has been burned twice by romantic love. First is when her dad left their family for another woman. Second is when her boyfriend dumped her for another girl. She starts working part-time at a posh cinema to distract herself from her heartbreaks and there she met Harry. Harry, who despite being a bad boy, is irresistibly persuasive in making Audrey open and trusting again.

“It Only Happens in the Movies” is basically a YA book that satirizes romantic films. It tries on a lot of stuff to set its tone: Audrey’s Media course work which shows her utter disdain of how unrealistic romantic films are, screenplay of the things that she wants to say to her faithless dad, zombie film-making featuring a zombie bride who has an agency to make her own choices, montage of Audrey’s happy romantic days complete with background music and blooper reels of Audrey trying to be nice with a girl competing for Harry’s affections. For the most part, the story adheres to the romcom plot formula to prove the toxicity in most romantic films. To make its case, a chapter will begin with a snippet of Audrey’s course work featuring a certain element of romcom like “The bestfriend who only exists to be your bestfriend” and then that chapter will introduce a character that somehow fits the bill. Or another snippet that lambasts “The grand gesture” and then will be followed by scenes of Harry making a huge romantic effort to win Audrey. Audrey’s media course work snippets are funny and what’s funnier is when she contradicts herself and violates her own rules about entering relationships. I don’t think that the book will even pass the Bechdel Test and personally knowing Holly Bourne’s previous works, that is super funny in an ironic kind of way.

Through humor, the book exposes the dangers of cute and commercial cotton candy cinema that feeds our unrealistic romantic fantasies. It makes the reader realize that stuff onscreen do not often reflect reality, thus it will eventually lead us to disappointments with how real-life romantic relationship works. Yes, it is a takedown on romance films but what I like about it is it does not offend people (like me) who enjoy fluff in films (and books). The book does not make itself sound superior over this brand of entertainment. It’s even indulging in some ways like referencing a lot of familiar romcom films. “Before Sunrise”, my favorite romantic film of all time (a fact which I have mentioned here and here in the blog before) is directly referenced in the book and mentioned in Holly Bourne’s bonus content in a positive light. Also, one of my favorite parts is when Audrey made a survey for her course work about which is the best cinematic kiss ever and I’m like,YAAS, I’M HERE FOR THIS! Audrey has many conversations about the survey with Harry and her friends. Audrey watched a film called "Cinema Paradiso" a film about film-making and cinematic kisses(?). I haven't watched this before onscreen but the book's explanation of it unexpectedly made me tear up.

“I do exist. I am here. I am part of this life, whether you like it or not. I will have reactions. I will be a human. I won’t go away quietly. I deserve to be here.”

The book made its main character explore and discover relationships on her own. Her friends are there for support but they don’t tell her what to do. I love the dynamics of friendship here that is very different but somewhat the same with the Spinsters Club. BTW, Holly Bourne’s feminist colors are often showing in the book but that’s not a bad thing, I’ll eat up feminist stuff any time of day. Most (note, not all) adults around Audrey are cool, too. They do not choke or control her with rules. Her mom for one lets her do things and is not like against relationships just because of her failed marriage. Another adult, Loulou who warned Audrey about Harry’s bad boy reputation is like okay-Imma-warn-you-but-it’s-still-up-to-you. Her Media course teacher is concerned about her work and is also instrumental for Audrey meeting up with a relationship expert. This meeting with the relationship expert is also one of my favorite parts because their conversation about real-life romantic relationship is so insightful. 

All in all, I am entertained and enlightened. The narrative is character driven with plot points moving based on Audrey’s choices. Audrey made mistakes, learned her lessons and the last pages have a solid empowering ending for her. Highly recommended for fluff-lovers and fluff-haters alike, for people going through a heartbreak or for young teens just starting to find out what romance is all about. Oh, and you should really read this if you are a film lover. BTW, definitely the best cinematic kiss for me is the one in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in all its under the rain glory BECAUSE LOOK AT THE CAT, EVEN THE CAT IS FEELING IT!!! How about you, which film gets your vote for the best cinematic kiss? (Holly Bourne, actually put up a poll about this in her Tumblr )

Diversity Watch:
Audrey Winters is racially indeterminate.

Harry is described as looking like Joseph Gordon Levitt (Asian or Jewish?).

One of Audrey’s friends, Leroy is a gay church-going Catholic. He is not out yet with his parents. He has a boyfriend named Ian.
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