Mini Book Reviews / Moonrise, Second Best Friend & It Only Happens in the Movies

by Sarah Crossan

Whenever it comes up in conversations, I become super excited and go on and on about Sarah Crossan’s One. I read and fell in love with both the book and audiobook a few years ago. For anyone new to poetry (like myself), it’s a story that I always recommend – it allows you to read poetry whilst feeling like you’re reading a novel. Moonrise is Sarah Crossan’s newest story, also written in free verse, and another brilliantly poignant contemporary.

Even though it’s 2018, people are betrayed by the justice system every day. Set in Texas, Joe Moon’s older brother Ed is found guilty of murdering a police officer, even though he wasn’t near him at the time. No one believes his story – not even some of his own family – and he’s now on death row. Moonrise tells the story of the weeks leading up to Ed’s execution date, and the length Joe goes to get his brother’s story heard and Ed’s young life back.

Moonrise is incredibly heartbreaking – you can’t help but feel helpless for the characters, like a YA Prison Break. Joe and Ed’s story is tough to experience. You really want it to have a happy ending, but the sinking feeling in your stomach never leaves. Moonrise, about justice, class and family, will make you feel a lot.

“They think I hurt someone. 
But I didn’t. You hear?
Coz people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.”

Second Best Friend by Non Pratt

Second Best Friend is another brilliantly accessible and relatable contemporary story from YA favourite Non Pratt, all about female friendship, rivalry and self-confidence. The novella features Jade and Becky, best friends for years and partners in crime, but the girls’ friendship is put to the test when Jade’s ex-boyfriend leads Becky to believe that everyone thinks she’s the less talented, less pretty, less interesting of the pair. Jade is voted in as Party Leader ahead of the school’s General Election – a bold and unexpected move for Jade – and finds herself competing against her best friend, again. But this time, maybe she can actually win rather than come second?

As a teenager, and even now as an adult on social media, it’s difficult not to compare yourself to other people. As I browse Twitter and Instagram daily, it’s tough not to see people as more successful, more talented, and more attractive. But also with social media, you have no idea what’s going on in someone’s life outside of this shiny public bubble, and what’s actually going on inside their head, as Jade and Becky come to find out.

Second Best Friend is a short, fast-paced and believable story about two friends who are trying to discover who they are outside of each other. It was also fabulous to see teenagers excited to learn more and get involved with politics. As someone who’s in favour of the voting age being lowered to 16, it was a joy to see! For another wonderful novella about friendship from Non Pratt, give Unboxed a shot.

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

I could read Holly Bourne’s novels all day, every day. It Only Happens in the Movies was my first book of the year (which was fitting because …And a Happy New Year was my first book of 2017!) and I adored it. It’s one of those books that I just wanted to tell everyone to read as soon as I finished it. It made me feel everything: excited, angry, upset, giddy.

Audrey is completely over romance and boys. Her parents’ relationship broke down a while ago but her mother’s been catatonic ever since, and Audrey’s still getting over her ex-boyfriend. To take her mind off everything (and to avoid going home), she begins working at a cute little indie movie theatre. As much as having to much that much homemade guacamole every day doesn’t sound very fun, it seems like the dream first job. And it’s here that she meets Harry. Harry’s… interesting. You know that he’s Not Good. Everyone tells Audrey that he’s Not Good… but you want it to work out, anyway. You want him to prove everyone wrong, especially as Audrey has to watch her ex-boyfriend with his new girlfriend and act like everything’s fine. It’s painful, and you constantly feel how difficult life is for Audrey right now. It Only Happens in the Movies features a really honest portrayal of heartbreak – not just jealousy, but the physical pain and unbearable sadness of it, so when Audrey falls for Harry, you want her to be happy.

Because it’s Holly Bourne, of course there’s also much-needed discussion about sexism and sex, feminism and periods, and the (frustratingly unrealistic) representation of love in movies. What else could you want from a YA contemporary romance?!

“No one ever tells you how much heartbreak physically hurts. How it literally feels like you’ve been kicked down the stairs. How you can’t swallow. How every muscle aches. How your heart lurches inside you like it’s been poisoned. Nobody tells you that.”