When Everything Feels like the Movies
I was skimming some interview online where Raziel Reid said that his book, When Everything Feels like the Movies (which has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, by the way, in the LGBT children’s/young adult category), was about teen sex, and I thought that was cool because I write about teen sex, too, and I wanted to see how he did it. (Note: It turns out I write about teen sex in another far more graphic way.) So I instantly bought it, of course. How could I not.
Now I don’t know what to say about this book. I loved it and I hated it. I couldn’t stop reading it. And that has a lot to do with Jude, the story’s narrator: a queer teen living in a mining town somewhere in some part of the world where it snows nonstop. So picture it: the landscape is already gray and dreary. In fact, Jude’s hometown may sound familiar to some of us. Most of Jude’s high school classmates will likely be looking for a quick route out of town once the graduation ceremony is over, the gowns and caps returned to the gymnasium.
What I love about Jude: he’s out in school. He wears makeup. He refers to and/or transforms the (often tragic) events in his life as though they were happening to Jude the Movie Star. For instance, he refers to school enemies as his rabid fans or as the paparazzi. He’ll transform his walk home from his friend Angela’s house, where he does a majority of his pill-popping, courtesy of Angela’s mom’s stash, into a casual stroll down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, noting the sounds and sights of a million cameras flashing. He tried out for the role of Dorothy in his high school’s production of the Wizard of Oz and lost out because of the backlash after having played the female lead in last year’s production. He’s really, really kind to his little brother, Keefer, and he loves his grandma. I could go on and on.
What I hate about Jude: he can be a catty little cunt. He dissociates to the point where he puts himself in danger, and I can’t save him because he’s in my Kindle and I’m out here. I hate him because I love him and I want him to love himself. But I understand that this is hard to do when you are Jude and you’ve experienced Jude’s experiences, especially the violence he’s seen at home, with his dad coming in and out of his life, and the price he pays for being authentically Jude—a big old queenie fag—in a mining town’s high school.
But really, Reid’s book wasn’t written to explore the methods of self-love, but to portray what being a queer kid means to far too many of us in this world, and the sacrifices you have to make to love and live on the streets where “queer” is still seen as disposable, a plague to be cleaned up and prevented. This was chillingly real.
What you will get from this book: honest writing, mostly amusing narration, bleak after bleak after horrifying situation, a close look at a kid who was never given much and knew it, but did the best to make the most of it, I guess.
This book is both heartbreaking and important. Don’t read it alone at night.