When Everything Feels Like the Movies

For the first time ever, I tuned into Canada Reads this year. I was blown away by the passionate debate and came away with a few more titles to add to my never-ending TBR list. The theme this year was books that break barriers. Elaine Lui, aka Lainey Gossip, championed Raziel Reid’s When Everything Feels Like the Movies. Ultimately this book came in second, but it was the book that I most wanted to read after.


When Everything Feels Like the Movies (WEFLTM for my sanity) is Jude’s story. He is a gay teenager in a small, depressing Canadian town in the middle of winter who dreams of being a Hollywood star. He is bullied at school, and has a train wreck of a home life. Jude’s one friend Angela is a promiscuous girl who keeps a list of all the guys she’s slept with under their favourite booth at the Day-n-Nite. Jude is planning on running away to Hollywood soon but in the meantime, he tells the story of the everyday: his mom’s turbulent relationship with her boyfriend Ray, smoking joints with Angela, his relationship with teacher Mr Dawson, stealing the Glinda dress from the school production when he doesn’t get the part.

Watching Canada Reads, I was prepared not to like Jude. I was prepared to spend some time with a vulgar, narcissistic teenager, dropping f-bombs and generally being an asshole. I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with Jude, to want to protect him and show him a different kind of life. I agree with Lainey that the language in this book is supposed to shock you so that you sit up and realize that the life Jude leads, the one filled with homophobia and physical violence, is the life that is led by thousands of young gay teenagers. Jude’s story isn’t an anomaly, his ending isn’t a one-in-a-million. When Jude asks his crush, Luke, to be his Valentine, Luke’s reaction isn’t an uncommon one.

This book broke my damn heart. The last few pages feel like a punch in the gut when you’re already on the floor gasping for breath. There’s a scene near the end when Jude’s little brother climbs up on his bed and makes sure that Jude looks his best that even now makes me cry. His little brother always saw Jude the way that Jude wanted everyone to see him – as fabulous.

It’s a short book but it has a lot to say. The end, when it comes, is fast and furious. I was so angry. I was prepared to be in tears but I wasn’t prepared to be so pissed. This book made me feel so much more than Ru. I think WEFLTM is the barrier breaking book that the whole country needs to read and then discuss so that the Judes in the world have a happier ending.

If you end up reading this book and wanting to do something, please check out Covenant House.


My CanLit Journey: Canada Reads

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I’ve struggled with liking CanLit. This might not sound like a big deal for those of you that aren’t Canadian, but if you tell Canadians that you don’t really like Canadian Literature, it’s a thing.

Canada has a long, proud history of literature. We’re a bookish country. But I never really connected with CanLit. Not on purpose anyway.

But, one of the great things about having started this blog and connecting with other bookish people (I’m thinking especially of Naomi at Consumed by Ink and Tania and Kurt at WriteReads), is that I’ve been challenged to re-evaluate my position on CanLit. And I’m making progress. So much so that this year for the first time ever I tuned in to Canada Reads.

Oh yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said Canada was a bookish country. We have a national reality show to choose a book that the whole country should read. Past winners include The Book of Negroes, The Orenda, and A Complicated Kindness. Finalists have included Life of Pi, A Fine Balance, The Prisoner of Tehran and The Birth House. Notable Canadians pick the books and then argue for why their book should win.

And actually if I’m being honest, of the ones I just listed, I’ve read and enjoyed four. Not too shabby for a CanLit snob.

Anyway, I tuned in this year and was blown away by the debate. It was passionate, it was intelligent, it was what I wish book club was actually like – at times it was emotional. The panelists argued about what it meant to be Canadian, which book broke the most barriers, writing quality etc.

Let me be honest – the reason I actually tuned in this year was because Elaine Lui (aka Lainey Gossip) was one of the panelists, defending When Everything Feels Like the Movies, the first YA book included in the competition. She was brilliant and really made me want to read the book.

I ended up reading the book that won over the weekend (I don’t want to ruin it for you, but really, you’re not going to get very far not knowing if you look at anything related to books and Canada). It was beautifully written, lyrical and poetic but honestly? I’m not sure it’s the kind of book that people are going to be clamouring to read. I think it’s one of those books that book critics love, but regular people are going to have a hard time with. The kind of book that most people are going to go “oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to read that…”

Still, actually tuning in to the competition feels like a watershed moment in my CanLit journey. If you’re looking for something to listen to, I really recommend it. It’s available as a podcast, or here.  Four sessions, four hours of fabulous bookish debate – what’s not to love?