By Crystal Olague || Contributing Writer
One of the newest romance novels to hit the shelves is Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter. This young adult romance follows two characters, Liz Buxbaum and Wes Bennett, as they enter the last few months of their senior year of high school. Liz and Wes have been next-door neighbors for as long as they can remember.
Liz was always the “annoying” neighbor in Wes’s eyes, just a girl obsessed with love and finding the man of her dreams. As kids, Wes was Liz’s bully who always found a way to disrupt her plans. Now, years later, they are preparing for graduation, and more importantly, prom. Even as a young adult, Liz is still obsessed with romance and rom-coms due to their connection with her mother and childhood, now that everything in her life has changed. She has her sights set on finding the perfect date to prom, and it just so happens that her childhood crush, Michael, has come back after moving away.
Despite Liz spending all her time watching and analyzing rom-coms, she has never experienced romantic love in any form, though she has tried and embarrassed herself in the process. Fortunately for her, Wes and Michael were friends during the entire period that Michael was gone. Liz decides to put their differences aside and asks Wes for his help in order to get Michael to go to prom with her. Throughout the book, we watch the duo do everything they can to try to get Michael to fall in love with her, but many challenges arise over the course of the novel that they have to fight through. As Liz and Wes work together, they start to realize that they don’t hate each other as much as they thought, and new feelings begin to develop. By the time prom finally rolls around, we watch Liz struggle to figure out if she wants to be with her childhood crush or the “bad boy” next-door neighbor who found a way into her heart.
This novel is about more than just a romance between two people; it deals with heartbreak, familial issues, loss, and more. There are scenes between Liz, her family, and Wes where they dive into the deeper parts of Liz’s life that makes her who she is and help her talk about events in her life that she refuses to discuss or ignores. When reading this novel, I could not put it down. I found myself invested in the characters from the start and loved the unique merging of “the childhood friends” and “enemies to lovers” tropes. One thing that I love about this novel is all the references to popular rom-coms sprinkled throughout the book, such as 10 Things I Hate About You, The Duff, Notting Hill, When Harry Met Sally, and more. As a romcom lover, it was such a sweet surprise seeing all my favorite movies in this book and made me feel connected to Liz in a way. I smiled, cried, and cheered for the characters as I read the book, and from the first chapter, I knew this book was going to be one of my favorites. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves romance but was too invested in books and movies to pursue it for themselves.
Junior Crystal Olague is a Contributing Writer for The College Reporter. Her email is email@example.com.