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‘Better than the Movies’ exhilarates the internal hopeless romantic

Grace Hamilton
“Better than the Movies” by Lynn Painter follows protagonist Liz Bauxbaum in her final year of high school, whenthe return of her childhood sweetheart leaves her to navigate the balance between who she wants to be and who she thinks she has to be. Painter takes the reader through an emotional and uplifting journey with likable characters and an intriguing plot.

Calling all romance book lovers: I have the utmost confidence that this book will soon become one of your favorites. “Better than the Movies” by Lynn Painter is not just a typical romance novel. It complicates themes of grief in a lighthearted yet realistic way. 

Elizabeth, who is referred to as Liz, lost her mother in a car accident when she was young and grew up solely with her father. The story takes place years later, with Liz starting Grade 12. She is a stereotypical teenage girl waiting for her knight in shining armor. 

I enjoyed how Painter maneuvered the potential platitudes of a rom-com heroine by giving Liz the hobby of creating music playlists for moments and people. While it does coincide with her romantic feelings for her classmate Michael, it makes her unique instead of a cliché. 

There are additional details that make Liz more complex, such as her daily routine of running three miles to visit her mother’s grave. Even her characteristic of romanticizing life plays into a larger motif, as her core memories involved watching romantic comedies with her mother.  

Used with permission from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Liz is often accompanied by her stepmother Helene, whose comedic and maternal personality resembles that of Lorelai Gilmore from the television show “Gilmore Girls.” Liz’s best friend, Jocelyn, is planning their final year of high school with pivotal prom shopping and senior sunset, while a continued feud with her neighbor, Wesley Bennett, is burning more than ever. These events give a chaotic feel to Liz’s life as she attempts to grapple with those around her while simultaneously coping with the loss of her mother. 

Liz’s pressure to act in a way that will make her mother proud feeds into the romanticization of her life. Thus, she is unable to live her life vicariously and learns how to live through her love-hate relationship with Wes.

The grief Liz feels for her mother and not having her presence at such an important time in her life is heartbreaking for both herself and the reader. It was difficult to see the main character trying to come to terms and cope with something so detrimental.  

Further, her father urges Liz to make more of an effort with her stepmother, which causes further problems as Liz begins to worry that Helene is trying to take her mother’s place in her life. Liz’s method of dealing with grief leaves her at a very low point in the book. However, her way of dealing with grief leads to perhaps the best instance of character development in a romantic young adult book. 

Moreover, Liz’s hopeless romantic side ties into the book with the return of her childhood crush, Michael, which causes her to plan a fake dating scheme with Wes for the purpose of having Michael ask her to prom. 

The book’s structure itself also echoes hopeless romantic qualities, where at the beginning of every chapter there is a quote from a well-known romantic movie such as “Bridget Jones’ Diary” or “When Harry Met Sally.” This was an aspect of the book which, while small, was something that made it feel as if the novel encompassed all of these love stories in a book about two teenagers.

Finally, I could not end this review without a mention of Liz and Wesley’s relationship itself. Despite the cliché fake dating trope – which is not my favorite – I absolutely loved seeing them slowly fall for each other and realize that everything they were looking for was right in front of them. Despite its predictable nature, Liz and Wes’ love story still made me squeal as I kept reading, earning me various questioning looks from passerbyers. Down to the last detail, this book is, and always will be, the perfect romance book.

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About the Contributors
Vittoria Di Meo
Vittoria Di Meo, Sports Editor: Online
Vittoria Di Meo (’24) is the Sports Editor: Online for The Standard and this is her fourth year in the publication. Di Meo started writing for the Middle School newspaper, The Scroll in Grade 8 and soon found an instant attraction to journalism. Di Meo loves writing and is excited by the opportunity to shine light on current events. Outside of The Standard Di Meo has tried out all kinds of sports but has discovered she mostly enjoys running by herself to listen to music and challenge limits.
Grace Hamilton
Grace Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief
Grace Hamilton (’23) is the Editor-in-Chief of The Standard. Her love for writing stemmed into a passion for journalism, and she became involved with The Standard in Grade 9. Journalism provides her a powerful platform to inform the ASL community and learn more about local and global perspectives, issues and events. Outside of journalism, Hamilton leads the Sustainability Council, writes creatively and sails competitively.

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