When Everything Feels Like the Movies, the book that won the Governor General’s Literary Award and was one of the CBC Canada Reads, is nothing like what one would expect in a book that won an award for children’s literature. Instead of having characters that perhaps have tragic lives but pull through due to sheer will and determination, this novel has characters that have unhealthy lifestyles that surely are not models for anyone. That being said, it is every bit controversial as you may now expect.
This title by Raziel Reid follows a middle school boy named Jude as he pines for this one guy who has a girlfriend while planning for his escape from mundane school life to chase his dream in Hollywood. His life is surely not perfect, with a mother who is a stripper and a father who has left them, and this uniqueness is definitely not the weirdest thing that sets When Everything Feels Like the Movies apart from any Young Adult novel. With a friend who basically sleeps with everyone and the narrator himself being brought up in a not-so-healthy environment, one can only imagine many foul languages and sexual references in this book.
One should totally applaud Raziel Reid for being brave enough to write such a provoking piece of work. The LGBT+ element is certainly much appreciated as there are not enough diverse books out there. Moreover, there are obviously the sexual references and foul languages packed in the novel that definitely take courage to write about in a young adult novel. Furthermore, to spice up a middle school student’s life into such a provoking and controversial life will surely be met with numerous criticisms but the fact that Raziel Reid has still done that definitely shows his courage.
However, that unfortunately does not mean I agree with all these choices. Don’t get me wrong – I am totally fine with LGBT+ characters and exploring sexuality and some foul language. What I am not okay with is that it is impossible to imagine middle grade kids doing such things. Jude may be behaving like that due to his upbringing but it surely seems like every classmate is like that. Moreover, it sometimes seems like Raziel Reid is pushing the boundaries just to push the boundaries. These controversial moments that make readers cringe sometimes don’t bring any significance to the developments of the characters.
On another note, his idea of making everything seems like something from the movies, such as dividing students into different people on the film set – The Crew, The Extras, The Movie Stars – is absolutely brilliant and creative. He also demonstrates his creativity by shaping Jude’s perspective such that the protagonist always references back to celebrities and their lifestyles. However, this often lead to many celebrities’ names thrown into the book and if the readers do not know some basic things about these celebrities, the notion of making everything feels like the movies is not that effective.
Overall, When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid is a creative piece of work that suits older teens due to its provocative language and scenes and people who enjoy diverse books.