Summary (from the publisher):
Perpetual daydreamer Liz Buxbaum gave her heart to Michael a long time ago. But her cool, aloof forever crush never really saw her before he moved away. Now that he’s back in town, Liz will do whatever it takes to get on his radar—and maybe snag him as a prom date—even befriend Wes Bennet.
The annoyingly attractive next-door neighbor might seem like a prime candidate for romantic fantasies, but Wes has only been a pain in Liz’s butt since they were kids. Yet, somehow, Wes and Michael are hitting it off, which means Wes is Liz’s in.
But as Liz and Wes scheme to get Liz noticed by Michael so she can have her magical prom moment, the pair grow closer, and Liz is forced to reexamine everything she thought she knew about love—and rethink her own ideas of what Happily Ever After should look like.
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Everyone knows that I love rom-coms in book form, but I also love rom-coms in movie form, especially ones from the ‘80s and ‘90s, much like Liz in Lynn Painter’s YA contemporary, Better Than the Movies. I’ve really loved recognizing all the nods to popular rom-com films on the cover! Better Than the Movies features some of my favorite tropes, like enemies-to-lovers, against senior prom season and Liz’s love for rom-coms. Liz teams up with her childhood enemy & next-door enemy, Wes, to help get her forever crush, Michael, as her prom date. As Wes and Liz spend time together to get Liz her prom moment, Liz finds herself actually enjoying spending time with Wes and begins to question if her beloved rom-coms gave her the right picture of a happily ever after ending after all.
Better Than the Movies was such a fun and adorable take on enemies-to-lovers. I feel like prom used to be such a major setting for YA contemporaries a few years ago, and it was fun being back in that world for Liz’s quest for the perfect prom date. The book gave me slight To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before vibes, since Liz and Wes kind’ve fake date in order for Liz to spend more time with Michael, who’s recently moved back to town and has hit it off once again with Wes. Wes also slightly reminded me of Peter K between his humor and personality, but was actually a slightly more down-to-earth version of him. Liz and Wes’ relationship was really fun, and I loved their mini adventures and mishaps. The book definitely has those classic rom-com vibes because of the mishaps that occur again and again as Liz tries to get closer to Michael.
Better Than the Movies had a ton of depth, as Liz’s love for rom-coms comes from her mom who passed when Liz was an early teen. Liz is struggling with all the milestone moments during her senior year, including prom, because she wishes her mom were there and envisions what her mom would’ve wanted for her (like going to prom with her childhood crush). Wes is super supportive and just so genuine when it comes to Liz and her mom. I was near crying when Liz flashes back to the story of Wes helping her out when they were younger when her mom’s rom-com DVDs accidentally get donated. Liz isn’t so forthcoming about her grief to most people in her life, including her step-mother, Helena, who has total Lorelai Gilmore vibes and her best friend, Joss, who’s never really understand Liz’s love for Bridget Jones. I thought Better Than the Movies was unique with its rom-com film backdrop. I loved how each chapter begins with a quote from a classic rom-com, and it was really cool to learn about Liz’s passion for making movie soundtracks. I admit that the story slightly lost me towards the end when it does fall into some tropes, which was mostly the fall-outs with people in her life as Liz tries to contend with her feelings for Wes and lies being told.
Overall, Better Than the Movies is such a charming YA contemporary that will put the biggest smile on your face as you read. I loved its fun and humor while also deep-diving into Liz’s grief and moving forward. I’m really interested in checking out Lynn Painter’s next YA book that also has nods to a classic film – the book is set to a romantic YA spin on Groundhog Day!
This review is based on an advance reviewer copy. By no means did receiving this ARC affect my thoughts & opinions.
Is Better Than the Movies on your TBR? What are some of your favorite rom-com movies or books? Share in the comments!