Better Than The Movies by Lynn Painter
Published: May 4th 2021 by Simon & Schuster for Young Readers
Rating: ★★★★★ (5)
Genre: Young Adult // Romance, Contemporary
Quick Thoughts: A romantically idyllic novel that had me wonderstruck from the get-go—it’s flawless.
About The Book:
Liz Buxbaum has always known that Wes Bennett was not boyfriend material. You would think that her next-door neighbor would be a prince candidate for her romantic comedy fantasies, but Wes has only proven himself to be a pain in the butt, ever since they were little. Wes was the kid who put a frog in her Barbie Dreamhouse, the monster who hid a lawn gnome’s severed head in her little homemade neighborhood book exchange.
Flash forward ten years from the Great Gnome Decapitation. It’s Liz’s senior year, a time meant to be rife with milestones perfect for any big screen, and she needs Wes’s help. See, Liz’s forever crush, Michael, has just moved back to town, and—horribly, annoyingly—he’s hitting it off with Wes. Meaning that if Liz wants Michael to finally notice her, and hopefully be her prom date, she needs Wes. He’s her in.
But as Liz and Wes scheme to get Liz her magical prom moment, she’s shocked to discover that she actually likes being around Wes. And as they continue to grow closer, she must re-examine everything she thought she knew about love—and rethink her own perception of what Happily Ever After should really look like.
There’s a lot of backstory that goes into the lead-up to getting to read Better Than The Movies. I had been trying to get a copy for ages, but it was out of stock everywhere due to being reprinted. That was until Lynn, the author, swooped in like a hero and granted my birthday wish—and as soon as my most anticipated book (of, like, seven months!) was in my hands, I dove straight in! (Thank you so much, again, Lynn!! You are THE BEST ♥)
Liz is in love with, basically, love. She eats, sleeps and breathes romantic movies, thanks to her late Mom’s love of them. For the longest time, she’s been enthralled by living her life through carefully curated playlists for every occasion (my kind of MC) and picturing her life being a rom-com. So when her old neighbour and long-time crush, Michael, moves back to town after being away for a while, she’s besotted again. But the issue lays with his eyes already being on someone else—and the fact that he still thinks of her as “Little Liz.”
Enter Wes Bennett: next door neighbour and pain in Liz’s butt since, well, ever. Somehow, she manages to enlist him in helping her land her leading man with their coveted parking space up for grabs if he helps her succeed. But through late night talks in the back yard, stolen glances and slips in time where it feels like Wes’s annoying habits aren’t staying all that annoying, Liz sees something else: a future she didn’t see written in her script. Suddenly, she’s overcome by the realisation that she’s setting her life up in a way that she thinks it’s supposed to be—pushing her friends and step-mother away, ignoring what’s right in front of her—for an “idealized” life. But what if going off script is better than the movies?
Overall, I’m going to waste no time in saying that I have found a new favourite book—and I don’t say that lightly. Better Than The Movies was everything I wanted it to be and so, so much more. I felt at ease every time I picked up the book, these characters so unflinchingly real that they felt like my friends. Main characters should always be like Liz and Wes. They had the kind of back-and-forth banter that’s so hard to capture in a book, and Lynn wrote it perfectly. I could honestly sit here all day and list everything I loved about this book (I mean, I did page-tab rather a lot of favourite moments.) All I know is that this was a romantically idyllic novel that had me wonderstruck from the get-go—it’s flawless. I cannot wait to read more from Lynn. The easiest five stars! (Well, cats, which is another reason I loved this book: there was the sweetest kitty!)
Lynn Painter writes romantic comedies for both teens and adults. She is the author of Better Than The Movies and Mr. Wrong Number, as well as a regular contributor to the Omaha World-Herald. She lives in Nebraska with her husband and pack of wild children, and when she isn't reading or writing, odds are good she’s guzzling energy drinks and watching rom-coms.