I read Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne last year and immediately felt a deep connection with it, due to it featuring a main character with both anxiety and OCD, both of which I have been through myself. Reading this book actually relieved a lot of the stresses I had bottled up, mostly because there was somebody else “like me” in YA literature! After finishing this, I vowed to read the rest of Holly’s work, but the second and third books in the Spinster Club series are still sat on my bookcase… I will rectify this shortly, promise! When I heard that Holly was writing a new YA book, I just had to get my hands on it.
I met Holly at YALC earlier in the year (in which I thanked her profusely for including, in my opinion, such spot on representation of an anxiety disorder in her books) and also went to the book tour for It Only Happens in the Movies. After hearing Holly speak about her newest release, I knew I would love it. Keep reading for my spoiler free review.
From the cover:
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 clichés. Oh, and zombies… YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.
First of all, I need to discuss our main character, Audrey. Despite some differences within our familial situation, I felt that Audrey was an extremely relatable character, almost like somebody you are friends with in real life. Throughout the story, Audrey constantly stands up for what she believes in which is a really admirable trait, and isn’t afraid to say no if she doesn’t want to do something, like turning down drugs and alcohol. Audrey understands her worth and wants what ultimately is best for her; I have a lot of respect for her because of this.
Harry, the love interest, is the typical “bad boy charming romantic”. You know he’s trouble from the beginning but you can’t help but warm to him as the story goes on. Despite Harry and Audrey falling in love with one another, Audrey calls him out on his shit repeatedly, and I think it’s refreshing to see that it’s ok to love someone and disagree with their views and actions at the same time in a YA contemporary novel.
Once again, Holly has managed to write a brilliantly engaging story in which a lot of teens and young adults will be able to see parts of their own lives reflected, but at the same time has included important points and situations that we don’t often, if at all, read about in YA. While not explicitly stated in the book, Audrey experiences vaginismus (difficulties in having penetrative sex due to incredible pain) and it isn’t just glossed over, it’s explored and I think that this is incredibly important.
Vaginismus affects around 17% percent of women between fifteen and sixty-four in the UK, but almost 50% of women with vaginismus are between fifteen and twenty-four, highlighting exactly why this representation is necessary in YA. I’m so grateful to Holly for including this and showing that this isn’t a case of there being something “wrong” with the woman as Audrey believe, but many (often treatable) factors.
Aside from this, It Only Happens in the Movies is packed with feminist characters who discuss periods and sex without judgement, know exactly what they want, and are good, reliable girl friends who are there for you without catty comments when you need them. WE NEED MORE OF THIS PLEASE!
It Only Happens in the Movies challenged the typical notions of a romance novel and tackles the cliches head on. It was eye opening to see typical rom com plots from another perspective, with Audrey creating a project for her media class about how they aren’t all as they seem. I drew from this that it’s still ok to love and enjoy rom coms (as I’m sure we all do from time to time!), but it’s important to be able to distinguish problematic, unrealistic and in some cases downright abusive relationships from the healthy. Holly actually created the “Wormtail theory”. Next time you think a character is being totally hot and romantic, replace them with Wormtail. Ryan Gosling grabbing somebody’s face and kissing them to shut them up? “Ok we think this is kind of hot.” Wormtail? “No, this is disgusting, I didn’t give you consent to kiss me?!”
This book explored the idea that teens and young adults don’t necessarily need a partner to be complete, and love isn’t always a fairy-tale, despite us being conditioned to believe this is true. It Only Happens in the Movies was a quick and fast paced read in which some serious topics are explored, such as divorce and familial breakdowns. You can’t help but root for Audrey throughout and I loved reading about a main character that I was constantly supportive of. I wish I’d had this book and Audrey to look up to when I was growing up and experiencing my first relationships; hats off to Holly for writing another incredible book!
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