Due for publication in October 2016, I thank publishers Amulet and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Described as ‘a whip-smart, heart-wrenching debut YA novel about first love, first loss, and filmmaking’ this strikes me as the kind of novel that will divide opinion.
In ‘The Movie Version’ we are introduced to Amelia and her family. She is obsessed with movies, and in her life elder brother Toby is the archetypal star. Everything revolves around her popular, smart brother and Amelia seems to accept her role as ‘second-best’ without question.
After returning from a summer away working, Amelia can’t help but notice that her brother has changed. He’s always been a little erratic, but Amelia is concerned by his outbursts and lack of personal hygiene. Initially she puts Toby’s changed behaviour down to a summer of smoking pot – and she covers for his slip-ups without question, because that’s what she’s always done – but when he is found in a state of extreme anxiety it is clear that something is not right.
Slowly it becomes clear that Toby is actually suffering with schizophrenia. His illness impacts on family life in ways that they cannot imagine, and it is all too apparent that Amelia has hidden behind her brother for so long that she has not really pushed herself to develop personally.
Initially I found the constant film referencing a little self-congratulatory, but I know this will appeal to some readers. Amelia veered between sensitivity towards her brother and genuinely offensive – perhaps this is realistic, but I wonder if her attitude will make it harder for some readers to really empathise with her.