I am in love.
It Only Happens in the Movies is the first Bourne novel I have ever read, but it will not be the last.
The novel centres around Audrey Winters, a sixth former who has sworn off romance following a disastrous break-up. To avoid tears, and a disintegrating family home, Audrey finds comfort in a job at a local cinema, and in the clichéd, charming, Harry Lipton. Despite Harry flaunting everything Audrey wishes to avoid, she finds herself drawn to him, and this relationship (alongside a school project) lead to startlingly honest discoveries about love and romance, that tear apart move clichés.
Holly Bourne is a character wizard. These teens are REAL TEENS. Audrey worries about period stains on her knickers; has sex (the real kind, not the we-always-orgasm-at-the-same-time movie kind) that isn’t sugar-coated or glossed over in a sentence; she ugly cries, a lot. My heart belongs to her, because she is a normal teenager.
Bourne also writes beautifully. Picture yourself dribbling syrup from a spoon and watching it fall in smooth curls on top of your pancakes – that is Bourne’s style. Smooth and easy, like the book is a conversation; Audrey is by your side, telling her story.
In its discussion of idealised “movie love”, this novel is brutally honest. To me, this is integral, because media romance is rooted in an all encompassing beauty. Our cinema screens never show the “choice” (as Audrey calls it) in love, only the feeling. This view has a tendency to make people expect a kind of love that they cannot find. I agree with Audrey, in that it is toxic, but I also see the view that it is, sometimes, beautiful – there is a scene featuring a collage of movie kisses that was very moving. However, despite this beauty, romance movies rarely show the scuffed edge of the diamond, just the shiny surface. And this novel gives us everything, scuffed and cracked and true.
Holly Bourne, thank you for writing this book, and reminding me that love isn’t painted in one, bright shade. I encourage everyone to read it, to get to know these characters – to understand them, because they are reflections of truth. You can buy it here.
It Only Happens in the Movies is completely and utterly perfect.