I received this eARC via the publisher from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
All quotes are from the ARC and subject to change.
Author: Emma Wunsch
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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.
This book wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible. I had moments while reading where I was enjoying it and then moments where I absolutely couldn’t stand what was happening or how the main character was acting. The fact of the matter is that the synopsis is extremely misleading – it doesn’t highlight the fact that this book is about mental illness, instead it made it seem like it was going to be all about a girl simply learning to stand on her own outside of her brother’s shadow (I was thinking it would be a feel good, empowerment type of contemporary). That aside, I love the fact that the author addressed a mental illness that I don’t often see in books and would love to see more of. I just wish it was alluded to or hinted upon in the synopsis because not only does that make it a sidelined plot in terms of importance to the novel but in the novel as well.
“Terrific? That’s not how to describe Toby. He’s charming and brilliant and bright and shiny. Toby is the movie star in his own movie! In all our movies!”
The Movie Version by Emma Wunsch is about Amelia’s (and her family’s) journey in navigating around the fact as well as coming to terms with the fact that her older brother Toby is diagnosed with a mental illness (I won’t say which one as some might not want that spoiled). The biggest aspect of this book is the fact that Amelia has always looked up to her older brother to the point of hero worshiping him. Not only are they close in age but they are close as siblings, practically best friends. Thus, she has a really hard time coming to terms with his diagnosis and joining the before and after together. It’s always been Toby and Amelia against the world so when he isn’t exactly her Toby anymore she is lost. Throw in the fact that Amelia is completely obsessed with movies and life being like ‘the movie version’ and there you have it.
“What’s the movie version?”
“It’s the better version.”
I’m still not sure how I feel about Amelia. At times she was incredibly immature, shallow, and self-centered. I can’t count the times I was forced to read her thoughts about how she couldn’t stand her boyfriend’s ears and hoped no one else noticed them. I wanted to scream! Not to mention when she blamed her newly diagnosed brother for her “terrible” winter vacation. During those moments I couldn’t stand her! However, there were times where I really felt and related to her struggle to accept the changes in her life. I’ve been there, everyone has been there. Change can be hard. There was such a raw and realistic feel to how Emma Wunsch highlighted Amelia’s struggle. I was in tears several times and that right there is when you know an author is achieving their purpose, when you’re feeling it.
“I feel like the kid in The Sixth Sense and my brother’s the ghost. Or maybe he’s the kid and we’re all ghosts to him. Either way, I feel like someone has died.”
However, I didn’t like the initial reaction to Toby’s diagnosis – everyone acted as if he had died instead of as if he was still Toby just a Toby who was now living with a mental illness. The way it was handled angered me.
I thought the whole side plot with the romance was incredibly awkward and not needed. The book would have been completely fine without any romance. Some of the scenes between Amelia and Epstein made me cringe because they were explicit in the worst way. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Epstein as a character – he was quirky and caring. I loved his friends! I just didn’t see the point of the romance at all.
I really enjoyed the family and sibling aspect of the book, Amelia’s family, while not being perfect, is a close-knit family. That stands out in a world full of YA books that have more absent parents and/or families. I loved their dynamic and her little brothers David and Sam were very entertaining. And the flashbacks of family events where we got to see Toby pre-diagnosis? They were extremely insightful and helped to really validate that whole aspect.
I also loved the friendships – while some were not perfect friendships they were still great. I especially loved Ray! She is the prime example of a supportive not afraid to tell it like it is the type of friend. Amelia was better for having her in her life.
“You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!”
“Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring. Easy.”
And Amelia’s movie obsession quirk? That was one of my favorite aspects of her! The fact that she could quote so many movies by heart or know where a quote came from was endearing if not slightly geeky. I, however, didn’t like how that obsession led her to the unrealistic expectation of life needing to be like ‘the movie version’.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t brought up Toby in more detail it’s because beyond his diagnosis, flashbacks, and Amelia’s instance that he is the coolest person to have ever lived we don’t get to see much of his journey. In the end, the whole plot of Toby’s mental illness becomes a plot device to further Amelia as a character. There wasn’t a complete resolution for him and I kept coming back to the thought – “What about Toby?” “How is he dealing with what he is going through?” No one ever asks him. The main reason this book is a two-star read instead of three, for me, is because of the fact that the mental illness was a plot device and I didn’t like that.
Would I recommend this book? Personally, it’s not a book I’ll be rereading. But if you want to give it a chance then go for it! Everyone gets something different out of the books they read and someone else might completely love this where I didn’t.
Have you read The Movie Version? What did you think of it? If not, do you want to read it?