on May 4, 2021
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Lynn Painter’s new novel Better Than the Movies follows Liz Buxbaum, high school student and hopeless romantic. Liz is obsessed with romantic comedies and uses them partly as a coping mechanism to deal with the death of her mom, who was also a huge fan of rom-coms. Liz daydreams about securing a happily ever after of her own and thinks the perfect opportunity for one has presented itself when Michael, her childhood crush, moves back to town.
I really loved Liz. Her extensive knowledge and love of romantic comedies was so endearing, as was her slightly misguided attempt to secure her own happy ending by fake dating her neighbor in an effort to get Michael’s attention. I also found Liz to be a very sympathetic character, as she is clearly struggling with the loss of her mom. It’s clear they were very close and that Liz is feeling her absence tremendously.
Liz wasn’t perfect by any stretch though. While trying to orchestrate that happy ending for herself, she all but ditches her best friend. And while she’s struggling to cope with the loss of her mom, she pretty much pushes her stepmother Hannah, who is actually really cool, off to the periphery of her life and refuses to let her be a part of any of Liz’s senior year milestones. These rocky, awkward moments just made Liz come across as all the more real and, for me, made her that much more likable and relatable.
My absolute favorite part of Better Than the Movies though was Liz’s relationship with her neighbor and arch nemesis, Wes Bennett. When the novel opens, Liz and Wes are in the midst of an ongoing war over the parking space out in front of their homes. They each resort to all sorts of dirty tricks to keep the other from getting the spot, which was just hilarious. It’s actually Liz promising Wes unlimited access to that parking space that makes him agree to help her get Michael to notice her. Watching the relationship between Liz and Wes evolve was the aspect of the book that really had me smiling as I read. No matter how much Liz professed to loathe Wes, it was all too clear the two of them had tremendous chemistry and that her actual happily ever after has quite possibly been living next door to her all along.
I don’t want to say anything else because you just really need to experience Wes and Liz’s immensely entertaining journey for yourself. Not only is Lynn Painter’s new novel Better Than the Movies a delightful rom-com that features fake dating and the enemies-to-lovers trope, but it’s also filled with perfectly placed references to all of my favorite rom-com films. I honestly don’t think a book has ever made me smile so much; I’m sure I was grinning from ear to ear pretty much the entire time I was reading.