A Review-Based Student Publication of Townsend Harris High School

The Classic Critic

A Review-Based Student Publication of Townsend Harris High School

The Classic Critic

A Review-Based Student Publication of Townsend Harris High School

The Classic Critic

Better Than The Movies Truly Lives Up to Its Name

Madison Donenfeld

‘“A girl will never forget the first boy she likes.” – He’s Just Not That into You 

“But she’ll also never forget the first boy she hates.” —Liz Buxbaum

Better Than The Movies by Lynn Painter unfolds with the familiar charm of many YA romantic-comedies. Here we are introduced to our main character, Liz Buxbaum, and her mischievous neighbor, Wes Bennett. The stage is set for a captivating clash, as Liz and Wes find themselves immersed in a fight centered around what they call “The Spot.” The first interaction we see with Wes? He’s gleefully jumping up and down on Liz’s car, intending to torment her. The initial impression suggests an undercurrent of long-lasting tension between the two, hinting at a slight rivalry. After this debacle, Liz is faced with her childhood crush, Michael, who has recently moved back to town. The only problem? Turns out Michael has reunited with and is now friends with Wes. Convinced that Michael is her true, destined soulmate, she decides to scheme with Wes to gain Michael’s heart. However, like in many rom-coms, she learns that “Mr. Right” may not be who she imagined.

As a lover of rom-coms, Taylor Swift, and the fake dating trope, I absolutely adored this book. Even though the book isn’t necessarily unique, it does the classic tropes (enemies-to-lovers, makeover, fake dating, and even a complicated love triangle) extremely well. Although it’s cringey at times, the book is overall endearing, funny, and adorable.

One of the most special parts of this book was its connection to the idea of romantic comedy movies. Our main character is a huge fan of them, and at the beginning of every chapter, there is a quote from a rom-com that relates to what is happening between Wes and Liz. Furthermore, Liz’s slight obsession with rom-coms are a driving force of many of her choices throughout the book. 

Another compelling aspect of this book was its connection to music. Due to her love of movies, Liz likes to make mental soundtracks for every part of her life, and we get insight on this throughout the novel. There are many mentions of different, popular songs, which adds a familiar and relatable feel to the book. At one point of the book, where the reader may have been confused about what Liz was feeling, Liz mentions a lyric from Taylor Swift’s song “New Year’s Day”: “Please don’t ever become a stranger, whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.” At times, these songs act as a window into how Liz is feeling based on what lyrics she references, giving us a better feel for her character. 

Liz, Wes, and the supporting characters are all relatable, authentic, and multifaceted. Liz and her best friend, Joss, grapple with genuine, understandable friendship issues, and display normal teenage behavior. We see Liz tackle having lost her mother and dealing with her kind but overbearing stepmother, and it is clear that there is more to her character than just her romantic relationships. The entire plot isn’t just her chasing after some guy. Unlike the cringeworthy, unrealistic writing found in many YA books, this novel avoids sounding too cliché, but it still stays true to the YA genre.

Brimming with wit, humor, and romance, Better Than The Movies navigates teenage confusion with grace. It truly lives up to its title – this is the perfect book for any and all movie enthusiasts and music lovers alike. No matter what your favorite genre or trope is, you’ll find something to enjoy in Better Than The Movies. Luckily for us, the sequel, Nothing Like The Movies, is set to be released in Fall 2024. 


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About the Contributor
Madison Donenfeld, Managing Editor
Madison is a junior at Townsend Harris High School. She enjoys reading, watching movies, listening to music (specifically Taylor Swift), and hanging out with her friends. You will often find her trying to learn a new instrument.
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