Monday 29 February 2016

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Review: When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel ReidWhen Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid (proof) - 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.
From Goodreads.

Reading the description above, When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid sounded like a fun, glitzy read with a gay protagonist, and I was so excited to read it! But now I have, and I have absolutely no idea whether this book is good or not.

Normally,  include a summary of the book in my reviews, but I have no idea how to summarise this novel. I just don't know what to say. So I'll just get straight in to what I thought: I didn't like this book at all. I didn't like the characters, I found the story hugely disturbing, and, to me, it just felt like Jude was a walking stereotype.

Jude is gay and out to the world. He doesn't conform to gender roles; he loves to wear make-up and women's shoes, and wears his hair long. He's very feminine and flamboyant, and because of this, he is bullied in such a huge way. He doesn't just get name calling, he has the crap beaten out of him, to the point that he ends up in hospital. To deal with the bullying, Jude pretends he is a movie star; the haters are the paparazzi or his fans, and they always want more of him because he's so fabulous. His life is a movie, and he plays his part. He gets so lost in his imagination, that sometimes, I'm unsure if the events he describes are real or in his head. Most of the time it's pretty easy to guess, but sometimes not so much. He also puts himself in the position to be bullied; he will say outrageous things to the guys who bully him, just to get their attention. Why? Because at least then he's getting attention, and he feels hate is as close to love as he's going to get. Or, they love him so much, they can't stay away, and so they hurt him. Crazy stalkers. Jude was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, but I'm sure he has some serious mental illness that he retreats into his imagination like he does. It's kind of heartbreaking.

But at the same time, I've never come across a character who is more self-obsessed. All Jude really cares about is himself, and getting attention. He goads his bullies by sexually harrassing them, and, although he's not asking to be beaten up, he is after a reaction. He can't bare to go under the radar. He craves attention. He also feels like a very exaggerated stereotypical gay man; a caricature with all stereotypes thrown in to one. I know there are feminine/camp/flamboyant gay men, but with Jude, these traits are taken to the extreme. I didn't find his character believable in the least. This could be that I've never met anyone like him, but I'm not so sure. I had no trouble believing Tiny Cooper from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan, or the crossdressing Infinite Darlene from Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan - both camp and flamboyant characters. As I said, Jude felt like a caricature.

I was also really disturbed by this story. Normally in YA, a book will be written in such a way that the less-than-smart decisions or actions taken by the characters is written in a way that we, as readers, know these characters are making huge mistakes (thought without feeling like you're being preached to). This is now how Reid had written this novel. Jude and his best friend Angela take drugs all the time. Whether it's weed, Angela's mother's prescription pills, acid, they'll take anything. Always. But at no point is this written like this is scary dangerous and illegal. It's just a thing they do, like reading a book, eating some food, taking drugs. Also, Angela is very promiscuous, which I do not have a problem with in and of itself, but she doesn't use protection. She has had multiple abortions in her young life, and thinks nothing of it. It's abortion as contraception, and again, not one character bats an eyelid, or thinks this might be wrong. Jude takes the mick out of her for sleeping around, and for getting pregnant sometimes, but he doesn't actually think she's doing anything unwise. These two just have so very little self-respect and are so highly self-destructive, and completely blasé about it all, I was reading the whole thing in complete shock and dismay. I should add that these teens are in middle school, and are around 14-years-old, max. I can't be the only person who finds this incredibly disturbing, right? I was sickened by the things that happen in this book. But I've no idea if this is realistic or not. Things certainly weren't this extreme when I was 14. Because of how there's no consequences to their actions, nor any feeling through the writing that what they're doing is screwed up makes me feel that perhaps it was written for shock value. But I simply can't say this is unrealistic, because I don't know.

Other issues that are barely touched on in this novel are present-but-absent parents, domestic violence, self-harm, drug addiction (not Jude's or Angela's), and a kind of inverted Oedipus complex (Jude masturbates occasionally to the thought of his absentee father). Again, there's not really any feel that something is up with these things, or even Jude's movie star delusions. To me, it just feels a little irresponsible of the author. There are some serious issues in this book, but they're brushed over without being written about in any detail, and written in a way that makes it feel like it's all perfectly normal. That just doesn't sit right with me. Nor do the insults and blasé comments about rape, nor calling people "retard"/"retarded". Also there's a really awful comment from Jude where he compares himself to JonBenét Ramsey; I didn't know who she was when I read it so I just brushed over it, but it was brought to my attention by Jim earlier today, and after looking her up and discovering she was a six-year-old beauty queen who was murdered, I was disgusted by Jude. I don't know if it's Jude or if it's the author, but one of them really has no boundaries.

I didn't like this book. I didn't enjoy one second of it. But do you have to enjoy a book for it to be good? I did read the whole thing, after all. I really couldn't say if this book was good or not. However, would I read it again? No. Would I recommend it? No. Do I feel there are any redeeming factors of this book? No. How many stars will I give it on Goodreads? One. You'll just have to decide for yourself if you want to read this book to work out if it's good or not.

Thank you to Atom for the proof.

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Published: 14th February 2016
Publisher: Atom
Raziel Reid's Website


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