“Better Than the Movies” is better than I expected

D’Juanna Lester, Arts Reporter

The season of rom-coms is officially upon us, book lovers. The newest addition to my list of favorite guilty pleasure rom-coms is “Better Than the Movies.” 

This Young Adult (YA) romance novel by YA (and Adult) romance author Lynn Painter has it all — fake dating (my favorite trope), witty, sarcastic protagonists and cheesy cliches.

Painter’s novel is a great example of emphasizing humor — starting with her book description.

Liz Buxbaum has always known that Wes Bennett was not boyfriend material. You would think that her next-door neighbor would be a prince candidate for her romantic comedy fantasies, but Wes has only proven himself to be a pain in the butt, ever since they were little,” the description said. “Wes was the kid who put a frog in her Barbie Dreamhouse, the monster who hid a lawn gnome’s severed head in her little homemade neighborhood book exchange.”

I’m not sure how someone manages to make gnome decapitation and neighbors tormenting each other in their youth romantic, but she does.

Liz and Wes have a complicated, love-hate relationship that draws readers in. They’re drawn to each other — not just because of their proximity, but because they have a genuine connection.

I loved Liz’s journey throughout the book. She’s one of my favorite romance story protagonists in a little while. She’s flawed, which I feel like a lot of protagonists don’t get to be, to a certain extent. She acknowledges when she’s being a bad friend, or when she’s pushing her stepmom away during her senior year activities.

Wes cared about Liz, and I was grinning when Liz had her moments of confusion over their relationship. It was nice to see the characters being genuine friends before and during their fake dating plot. I enjoyed seeing how Painter planted those seeds throughout the book — it was the little moments that kept me turning the page.

This book touched on many things, not just romance. It tackled loss with the death of Liz’s mother. I liked how it was a constant in the book. It affected her behavior and how she saw her senior year. It gave depth to her character that made me want to read more. The story had complexity.

If a person is willing to not only fake a relationship with you to impress your crush, but also take you shopping, drive you around and make a romantic playlist with you — wow. Wes and Liz are adorable, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the two to realize their true feelings.

There is one scene in the novel that made me circle it on my page, not to mention almost throwing the book across the room. It comes towards the end after the big prom night that Liz had been anticipating the entire book. It’s three simple words that had me kicking and screaming She isn’t you.”

Overall, I think any fan of the fake dating trope should definitely give this book a try. It has everything. I think Jenny Han fans would really enjoy this one. 

Rating: 5/5