Title: The Movie Version (2016)
Author: Emma Wunsch
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 368 pages
Release Date: October 11, 2016
In the movie version of Amelia’s life, the roles have always been clear. Her older brother, Toby: definitely the Star. As popular with the stoners as he is with the cheerleaders, Toby is someone you’d pay ten bucks to watch sweep Battle of the Bands and build a “beach party” in the bathroom. As for Amelia? She’s Toby Anderson’s Younger Sister. She’s perfectly happy to watch Toby’s hijinks from the sidelines, when she’s not engrossed in one of her elaborately themed Netflix movie marathons.
But recently Toby’s been acting in a very non-movie-version way. He’s stopped hanging out with his horde of friends and started obsessively journaling and disappearing for days at a time. Amelia doesn’t know what’s happened to her awesome older brother, or who this strange actor is that’s taken his place. And there’s someone else pulling at her attention: a smart, cute new boyfriend who wants to know the real Amelia—not Toby’s Sidekick. Amelia feels adrift without her star, but to best help Toby—and herself—it might be time to cast a new role: Amelia Anderson, leading lady.
I’m not sure what it was that I expected when I picked up The Movie Version. The blurb made it sound like I was going to be thrust into a story of a girl who idolises her brother and wants every inch of her life to be as good as in the movies. What I got instead was… well, how do I put it? It was definitely not what I thought it would be. 😛
It took me a while to get into this book. When the story opens, Amelia was getting high with her brother by smoking pot, so her narration for the first few pages was unclear and kind of all over the place. This beginning put me off for a bit but I pushed through, and around the 30% mark, the plot starts to pick up.
“But movie-sad is way better than non-movie sad. For one thing, there’s a soundtrack, which helps you get right to the heart of sadness. Violins and stuff.”
The story goes that Toby, Amelia’s older brother, suffers from a mental illness that is only now manifesting. The main conflict revolves around this — the downfall, the discovery, the response, the resolution. Personally, the blurb could’ve been better written to reflect this — what the actual blurb suggested I didn’t get a strong sense of.
For a main character, I think Amelia could’ve been better characterised. Her problems in this book defined her, and it’s unclear who she is without these issues. I didn’t get a very strong sense of her personality — she came to me as a bit of a blank slate and stayed like that throughout, letting her reactions to various circumstances carry her through the book. She was… reactive, I suppose, but that’s all.
It hits me with a thud why I don’t want to talk about my brother’s illness. Toby, to all the people that don’t know him or love him the way I do, has become just the guy in the story — like the girl from fifth grade whose mom dropped dead, the boy who cut his wrists last year, the girl whose dad drove drunk and ended up in jail.
Toby was to me the more interesting character, not just because of his mental illness, but because of who he was portrayed to be before and during. I enjoyed the brief glances into his and Amelia’s childhood — shown through several scenes done in an enjoyable movie script format — and found him more three-dimensional, more developed, than everyone else.
Unfortunately, other than Toby, the remaining cast of characters didn’t really stand out to me either. Epstein, Amelia’s love interest, was a good guy and I enjoyed their interactions, but didn’t particularly care for them either way. Raychelle, Amelia’s best friend, was supportive, but that’s all. Amelia’s family was sweet and quite caring, too, but for the most part, none of these characters existed outside this book. What were they doing before this? What other motivations in life do they have? It feels a bit like this story is a stage, and the characters just stand by the sidelines until it was their turn to make an appearance.
Thematically, The Movie Version was a bit all over the place. Mental illness was touched upon, but I don’t think it was explored as much as it could have been. Amelia’s relationship with Epstein surfaced quite a few times, but there wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy about it. There were quite a few movie or TV references to popular YA titles (If I Stay, The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games) so it’s all very current, but nothing else came out of it. All these different themes have their own place in the book, but I didn’t feel like they were ever fully realised.
“My advice is this: It’s okay to laugh. Actually, you need to laugh. You have a sense of humor, right?”
“Yeah, you do. I can smell it.” He sniffs loudly. “My advice to you is: Don’t lose it. Things can still be funny.”
One last note: this book was quite a lot more explicit than I expected. There are plenty of direct references to smoking, drugs and sex, all of which Amelia, and other characters, partook in willingly and quite often. I didn’t find this to be particularly good or bad — just noteworthy because I didn’t expect it to be, well, there.
Ultimately, The Movie Version had a lot of potential but ended up lacking. I enjoyed some parts of it, but the book didn’t leave much of an impression to me, positive or otherwise. It wasn’t a bad debut, exactly — it just wasn’t great.
* I received an ARC of THE MOVIE VERSION from Amulet Books and NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book.
Interested in purchasing The Movie Version? 💛