In When Everything Feels Like the Movies, DailyXtra.com columnist Raziel Reid tells the story of a genderqueer 15-year-old struggling to survive junior high. According to Jude, the school’s population can be divided into three categories: “The Crew” (honour students), “The Extras” (misfits), and “The Movie Stars” (“selfish, spoiled, and overly sexed”). Jude doesn’t fit in with any of them, but with his friend Andrea by his side, he always makes sure he’s in the spotlight.
Nothing is easy for Jude. His father left him at a young age and his home life’s a mess. His mother’s boyfriend is physically abusive, and homophobia seems to be the rule rather than the exception at school. The Movie Stars verbally assault him on a regular basis, and physically assault him three times during the course of the book.
While the storyline has promise, the novel has a number of problems, the biggest being gratuitous graphic language and imagery. Some of this is to be expected in the first-person narration of a hormone-riddled teen, but the near-constant, highly explicit vulgarity is unnecessary, adding nothing to plot or character development. In fact, there is very little development at all. The characters are static; no one learns anything or evolves. The only slight shift comes when Andrea, instead of supporting Jude when he decides to leave town, sleeps with the boy Jude has a crush on to spite him.
Though the story is set in junior high, the school environment and the issues (including an abortion and plenty of sex and drugs) feel more appropriate to a high-school setting.
Reid’s debut novel may find an appreciative audience among older teens and adults, but is not be the best choice for younger readers. Though the story addresses some important issues, its problems are too distracting for the book to be considered a success.