Tuesday, September 13, 2016

the movie version: stardust arc reviews

The Movie Version

Emma Wunsch


release date: October 11 by Amulet Books


A whip-smart, heart-wrenching debut YA novel about first love, first loss, and filmmaking that will delight fans of Jandy Nelson and Jennifer Niven

In the movie version of Amelia’s life, the roles have always been clear. Her older brother, Toby: definitely the Star. As popular with the stoners as he is with the cheerleaders, Toby is someone you’d pay ten bucks to watch sweep Battle of the Bands and build a “beach party” in the bathroom. As for Amelia? She’s Toby Anderson’s Younger Sister. She’s perfectly happy to watch Toby’s hijinks from the sidelines, when she’s not engrossed in one of her elaborately themed Netflix movie marathons.          

But recently Toby’s been acting in a very non-movie-version way. He’s stopped hanging out with his horde of friends and started obsessively journaling and disappearing for days at a time. Amelia doesn’t know what’s happened to her awesome older brother, or who this strange actor is that’s taken his place. And there’s someone else pulling at her attention: a smart, cute new boyfriend who wants to know the real Amelia—not Toby’s Sidekick. Amelia feels adrift without her star, but to best help Toby—and herself—it might be time to cast a new role: Amelia Anderson, leading lady.

full review under the cut! 

 I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Amulet Books, so thanks to them for giving me the chance to read this awesome story. Emma Wunsch is a debut author who tackles a very serious topic, and if you’re wary about reading books concerned mental illness, I’d be careful with this one. However, I thought this book handled the extremely difficult topic very well. I felt like Wunsch knew what she was talking about, and though the book itself was sad and had a lot of hard-to-read scenes, the writing of the book made it a good one.

This novel revolves around sixteen year old Amelia Anderson, high school junior, film buff, sister to three brothers. Her world has always revolved around two things: movies and her brother Toby. So when she goes away for the summer and returns to find that Toby has changed over the months, her entire life is thrown into an unfamiliar pattern. Amelia is probably the reason that this book is three and not four stars for me, because I just found her so frustrating. She was relatable, but she was also… UGH just so frustrating at some points. First of all, she’s a scaredy cat. Which, in a lot of the situations, I can understand. But at the same time, I don’t want to read a book where the main character is just afraid of everything all the time. Secondly, she’s a little (a lot) selfish. Her brother is going through probably one of the hardest things anyone could ever go through, and all she can think about is herself and how it ruined her day and how it affects her relationships. I was like GROW UP!! I wanted her to be there for Toby, but when the going got tough, Amelia just disappeared. I’m sensitive to how mental illness changes a family, and I know firsthand the destruction that it can cause, but given how close Amelia and Toby were before his diagnosis, I wasn’t buying her complete 180.

Aside from my extreme annoyance with Amelia as a main character, I really appreciated the other aspects of this novel. For their part, I really loved Amelia’s family. I loved the glimpses of Toby that we get before his diagnosis, and even after, he was just such a great dynamic character. Amelia’s little brothers, twins Sam and David, were so cute and just how I would picture little kids in this sort of stressful situation. I liked that there was a very real parent presence, and even their grandma was involved, because in a lot of YA you don’t see that, but I think that the fact that their parents did play a huge role contributed to the family-centeredness of this book. Also, Amelia’s best friend Ray was the real MVP. She had to deal with all of Amelia’s shit, and she was never snippy or angry about it. Also, there are two characters named Muppet and Toast, so that made me laugh. Amelia also has a boyfriend throughout this book, which is a little different because usually I spend an entire novel rooting for a couple to get together. His name is Epstein and he’s cute in a dorky way, but he wasn’t the thing that I was focusing on in this book. I didn’t mind the romance, because I thought it added to the amount of stress that Amelia is feeling, but it definitely isn’t the most important thing, which I personally enjoyed.

Another thing that was really great about this book was how realistic everything felt. There are a ton of scenes where I was just nodding along because I felt like it was something that was really happening. The awkward portrayals of sex, the always underwhelming quality of whatever party you go to, the horrible reactions to mental illness, Amelia’s unwillingness to open up to anyone, spending the day watching everything on your Netflix list, it was all just so great. Even when the book was talking about Ray’s job at the cinnabon-esque store at the mall, I was just like YES! This is REAL! LIFE! And, because the book feels that real, it makes the moment when the floor drops that much scarier. When Toby gets diagnosed with (idk if this is a spoiler but…. look away if you don’t want to know?) schizophrenia, I was surprised. I haven’t read a lot of books concerning that specific illness, though I have read some that talk about others, so I kind of knew what to expect but not really. It was just so heartbreakingly sad to see this diagnosis through Amelia’s eyes. I think that made it even more awful for me. It isn’t happening to her, necessarily, but the fallout from this diagnosis sends shockwaves all through her life, especially because she and Toby are so close. Seeing an older sibling and a family go through an extremely difficult time through the eyes of a beloved younger sibling is just so heartbreaking, and that was a really well done part of this novel.

All in all, I loved the realistic portrayal of mental illness and how it affects families. I loved most of the characters, and frustrations aside, I think Amelia is a good tool to see the illness through. I loved the movie quotes and the theme of how film can be used to portray life, and I thought the prose handled difficult subjects really well! Definitely would recommend to those of us who are interested in mental illness and complicated family dynamics.

(also I don't know if any of you watch Brooklyn 99.... but there is a super funny character with the name Wunsch in that show and I was giggling every time I remembered that this author and that character share a name... total sidenote but i love that show) 


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