Release Date: 11th February 2016
Edition: UK proof, review copy
School is like a film set. There’s The Crew who make things happen; The Extras who fill empty spaces in rows of desks; and The Movie Stars, who everyone wants to tag in their Facebook photos.
But flamboyant Jude Rothesay, who lives for Louboutins and celebrity magazines, doesn’t fit into any of these categories Jude is the boy who wants to burn the whole damn set down…but not until he gets Luke Morris to be his date to the Valentine’s Day dance.
Beautiful, screwed-up, queer – Jude is a young man determined to blow kisses to bigots and defy a lifetime of neglect through glamour. He’ll wear whatever he wants, sleep with whomever he likes and live his life like he’s the star of the show.
When Everything Feels Like the Movies has left a trail of controversy in its wake and I was officially intrigued, but it’s left me with very mixed feelings.
Even from the synopsis you can tell this novel is going to be bold and brash and graphic, but I do have to admit that I was a little shocked, especially when I found out how old the characters are. It changed the way I looked at the book, actually. Instead of being daring and brave it became a little melodramatic and exaggerated; everything in this book felt like it had an agenda, and none more so than Jude.
Jude is loud and proud and supremely irritating. He uses his sexuality as a barrier between him and the homophobic abuse he suffers at school and the damaging, broken home life he has. He also told his story through the lens of a Hollywood movie star in the same way and it almost teetered him into the land of the unreliable narrator. It was strange, but fascinating. Reading When Everything Feels Like the Movies kind of feels like when cars slow down to look at a crash site on the side of the motorway; horrific and sad, but ultimately, there’s no real emotional connection there – you’re too safe in your little bubble and Jude never lets you in.
No one around Jude lets him in either really. In fact, there’s not a single likable, redeemable character in the novel except Jude’s little brother, Keefer, as far as I’m concerned and it was so, so bleak. It just made it feel like an agenda and I was having something forced on me. It meant that I saw the tragic ending coming a mile off, and horrific as it was, I felt nothing. It was obvious from the beginning what sort of story this was going to be and I just never fully connected with it. Maybe I’m too far away from Jude and his experiences? But that shouldn’t distance the reader – that’s the opposite of why books are important. I don’t really know, to be honest. I’d be really interested to hear from you guys if you’ve read this!
Though When Everything Feels Like the Movies is a shocking, bold debut novel, I felt a little emotionally manipulated by the time I got to the end rather than actually emotionally involved.
Thanks to Atom for the review copy.