Title: Better Than the Movies
Author: Lynn Painter
Publication: July 26, 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Fiction
SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)
Perpetual daydreamer Liz Buxbaum gave her heart to Michael a long time ago. But her cool, aloof forever crush never really saw her before he moved away. Now that he’s back in town, Liz will do whatever it takes to get on his radar – and maybe snag him as a prom date – even befriend Wes Bennet.
The annoyingly attractive next-door neighbor might seem like a prime candidate for romantic-comedy fantasies, but Wes has only been a pain in Liz’s butt since they were kids. Pranks involving frogs and decapitated lawn gnomes do not a potential boyfriend make. Yet, somehow, Wes and Michael are hitting it off, which means Wes is Liz’s in.
But as Liz and Wes scheme to get Liz noticed by Michael so she can have her magical prom moment, she’s shocked to discover that she likes being around Wes. And as they continue to grow closer, she must reexamine everything she thought she knew about love – and rethink her own ideas of what happily ever after should look like.
This book was brought to my attention after I watched the TV show The Summer I Turned Pretty and then read the books. I was told it was just as good as the show. I have to say, while I am a huge fan of the show The Summer I Turned Pretty, and less so of the books (go read my review for more on that), I love Better Than the Movies.
Lynn Painter wrote a beautiful, and yet sad, story of Liz Buxbaum and her life post-death of her mother. She is dealing with friends, a boy she’s loved since childhood being back in town, and emotions surrounding her step-mom and missing her mom in her senior year of school. I kind of expected this book to be a bit fluffy like a lot of YA Fiction books that are compared to this. However, Lynn Painter came through. Liz’s emotions had me all up in my feelings, even going as far as to tear up for her here and there. I loved the emotions she had and also the way she was unable to control them at times, lashing out at her stepmom or keeping secrets from friends because it was easier to just tuck, tuck, tuck those feelings down. It’s so realistic to the feelings of someone missing a parent. It’s easier to say “I’m fine” when asked if you are okay than nose-dive into dead parent territory.
I honestly love all the characters in this book. I cannot think of one I do not like. I feel like all the side characters played a pivotal role in, not only the arc of the story but in Liz’s personal growth throughout. You have Michael and Wes, both gentlemen to the core and unlike any high school boy I ever encountered. While I say that, I don’t mean it was unrealistic. I have just never been so lucky. While I had my favorite, I was honestly okay with either of these two winning the girl’s heart. It’s not like that in most stories, but both characters were genuinely likable good people. I can only hope my own teenage daughter can find one just like them.
While the story is your typical boy next door story, there are so many deeper feelings intertwined in this book that it simply adds layers that keep pulling you in for more. I found Better Than The Movies achingly beautiful about first loves, grief, and friendship as one makes that transition to adulthood. I hear there is a sequel coming, called Not Like the Movies (uh oh!) in the fall of 2024. If I could pre-order now, I would. An absolute must-read. Definitely making my top 10 of 2024.