When Everything Feels Like The Movies by Raziel Reid

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I wrote this review a couple of days ago in honour of pride month, but I didn’t get around to posting it just then. Given recent events, I added a little dedication before sharing it with the blogging community on this sad day.

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This is dedicated to all those who were tragically affected by the Orlando Massacre Shooting. May our thoughts and prayers be with the victims and their loved ones. The LGBTQ2 community took a huge blow, and the entire world felt it. For all those in the Orlando area, please do your part and donate blood. For anyone who condones this act of violence, please give tolerance and love a second chance. Violence is never the answer. Love is all you need.

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When Everything Feels Like The Movies is a breathtaking book, addressing current issues such as tolerance, acceptance, unconventional love, bullying, and terrorism.

I may be a little biased towards this book because a) One of my best friends is gay, b) I am a proud supporter of the LGBTQ2 community, and c) I am an active member in the arts community  (specifically theatre) where I come into contact with LGBTQ2 members on a daily basis. LGBTQ2 rights are important to me, so whenever I see an opportunity to spread awareness I jump at the chance, and this book is an excellent source for those who want to learn more about the issues and tragedies facing those who are labeled as ‘different‘.

I’m not going to lie to you, Book Babies… this book should and will make you feel uncomfortable while reading it, not matter how tolerant you are. For that alone I have to applaud the author. Reid knows how to make the plight of his characters real; you can’t help but feel for them as they struggle to find their place in the world. But some of the language he uses is very hard and offensive, so you will cringe with dislike every so often. The language and sexual references are a lot for most readers to digest, but it’s not far off the mark from what schools are like today. The one thing that stumped me was the fact that these kids were all in grade eight. Maybe if they were a little older (in high school rather than middle school), the punchy dialogue and scathing remarks would be a little less gasp-worthy.

The fact that this book is based on true events is heartbreaking. In 2008, an openly gay teenager was killed by the male classmate he asked to a Valentines day dance. This is the sad reality we live in, where hate crimes can happen at a moments notice.

Jude is a very cynical and jaded about the world, and yet he seems to be in love with this ‘movie style’ ideal of it. He plays up the dramatics when in public, hiding his tortured life behind the imaginary camera where no one can see it. As much as I enjoyed getting to know Jude’s flamboyant, take-no-prisoners personality, I wish we had more of a chance to get to know the secluded side of him. You can tell that he is lonely and lost in this world that is conditioned to hate or question his brand of ‘different‘, but we are given only a few moments to sympathize before we are pushed back into the theatrics of his fabulous life, as Jude would say. This could be Reid’s way of making the end more shocking, knowing that Jude never really had a chance to connect and open up with anyone about his anxieties and fears before his tragic end. Maybe the reader is supposed to believe that the ending could have been avoided if Jude had someone to care for him; someone who knows his fears and accepts him for who he is. Maybe then he wouldn’t have felt the need to ask the boy to the dance? No matter how much he joked around and teased the boy about liking him (yes, Jude is a bit of a bully as well…), it was all just a cry for help; a need to be wanted. It’s just a theory to help explain the lack of information on the more vulnerable side of Jude, as well as the fast pace nature of the book. Or maybe there’s nothing to read into at all; Reid has no secret messages and wants us to take his novel at face value. Either way, this story makes you think.

I also wish there was a little more information about Jude’s only friend, Angela. She is almost as shallow and self-centered as Jude, and yet we don’t know exactly. We are briefly introduced to her dysfunctional family, but that can’t be all there is to it… right? And we know why she sort of turns away from Jude later on, but is her reasoning more involved than that? I don’t want to give it away, but I just felt like she was hiding something; like she’d been building up her resolve to turn on him long before the events leading up to valentine’s day, and he dance was just the tipping point. Maybe it’s because I know it would take a lot more for me to turn my back on someone… maybe Angela is just a little more flighty/quick to act without regret.

Ultimately, I would say this book needed to be longer. Most of my issues with the story don’t stem from the bullying, tolerance or terroism aspects, but rather the fact that I want to know more about the people and events that led to these pivotal plot point topics. Maybe Reid wanted us to fill in the blanks for ourselves; to read between the lines. Or maybe he didn’t want to get too specific for fear of making his fictional story more of a true account of the 2008 incident the story is based on, which could have offended the families involved. Either way, it was still a fascinating read.

There’s been a lot of contraversial reactions to this novel. Some say Reid should give his award back, and that the novel should be censored. I believe these claims to be ridiculous. Just like the rest of the reviewers who can’t make up their minds, I can’t decide if I’d classify this as a good book. It’s certainly original, thought provoking and a barrier buster, which are just some of the reasons why I like it. But the language and cringe worthy moments make it all a little hard to swallow; it’s almost too true to life in some cases. But no matter what, this book is an important read. Just like so many other book reviewers, I must say that I’m glad this book exists. We need more novels to bring awareness to those touchy, ugly subjects that people choose to brush aside or ignore. Ignorance may be bliss for some, but those who are ignorant are also naive. We need to be aware of the LGBTQ2 community, spreading the love to discourage the hate!

So give this book a chance, Book Babies. I can’t promise that you’ll like it, but I can promise that you’ll be better informed where the LGBTQ2 community is concerned. I hope you all spread the love this pride month! Dance in the streets, ride a float, and wear your rainbow proudly!

LOVE IS LOVE.

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“And love, is love, is love, is love, is love,  is love, is love, is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”
Quote from Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Tony Awards, 2016, in reference to the Orlando Massacre Shooting.
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