Summary: Despite facing prejudice on a daily basis for wearing makeup and dressing like a girl, Jude views life in the context of filming a movie in which Jude’s own experiences are the subject matter. Everyone in Jude’s life has a part to play, from the crew to the paparazzi and fans. Jude is in love with Luke, one of the movie stars of the production, and is irrepressible in expressing interest, even when punished for it. As Jude’s movie approaches its’ ending, Jude’s intentions to leave small town life and start over triumphantly in Hollywood are conquered by a surprising rewrite.
Age Range: 16-18
Review: The power of Jude’s story is in its unique perspective. Stuck in a small town, bullied at school with a best friend who can’t always be trusted and a dicey abusive family situation, the cards seem to be stacked against Jude. But pretending everything is just a part of a movie helps ease Jude’s experience as an outsider by seeing it through a new lens. First-time author Raziel Reid skillfully promotes this view with specific chapter titles relating to the film industry and detailed explanations of each person’s role in the production of the movie that is Jude’s life.
As Jude is not a reliable narrator, invested in choosing the best and most dramatic scenes for the movie narrative, it is hard to determine how old Jude and friend Angela actually are. Angela has sex with multiple partners and uses abortions as birth control suggesting she is an older high school student, but at one point she comments that by having sex with Luke’s older brother Troy, she will be able to say she slept with the high school quarterback when she gets to high school. Does that mean they are in grade nine in a middle school or perhaps even younger than that?
What touched me most in Reid’s novel was the acceptance from Jude’s younger brother. Keefer. Able to see Jude and love without reserve or restriction, it is Keefer who is able to provide Jude with a final dignity and act of understanding. Given his father Roy’s extreme reaction to the one time Keefer tried Jude’s lipstick, it would be easy to understand Keefer withdrawing from Jude, but he doesn’t. The way Reid portrays Keefer’s heart through his innocence and kindness make him my favourite.
Jude is an effervescent character trying to find a way in the world despite others’ judgement of a gender fluid expression of self. Containing scenes of extreme violence, sexual encounters, bullying and abortion as well as several culture references, Reid’s book is an intense but multi-faceted, challenging read for older teens with many layers to sift through.
“Matt’s skateboard came for my head before I could duck. He kept hitting me even when I was down. Later, the doctors worried that he’d injured the ventromedial prefrontal cortex part of my brain, which can leave you without morals or compassion. I was disappointed that it wasn’t damaged, because wouldn’t it be nice not to give a shit?” – Jude from When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, page 11-12
“In the first picture ever taken of me, I’m lying in the hospital nursery wrapped in a yellow blanket. Not blue like all the other baby boys or pink like all the girls. It was a yellow blanket, which I kept my whole life. I’d sleep with it every night. Even when I was too old and it embarrassed me, I loved it. But then I always loved things that didn’t love me back.
I used to wonder if the parents who looked at my yellow blanket in the nursery with all the other babies though I was a little boy or girl. If it mattered. If, on my first day on earth, I wasn’t either.
I was just beautiful.” – Jude from When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, page 17
“‘It’ was another one of my stage names. It was my JLo. People meant it to be insulting, but I found It empowering. I always thought they were referring to the Stephen King novel because of my ability to shape-shift into their greatest fear. It’s amazing what a pair of heels can do.” – Jude from When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, page 24
“‘You know, Jude,’ Mr. Dawson said once Luke had walked off, his voice sudden;t softer as he faced me from the doorway, ‘there’s something I hope you always remember, especially when you’re trying to make it big in Tinseltown.’
‘Always get the money first?’
‘That it’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not.’ – Conversation between Mr. Dawson and Jude from When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, page 100
When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid is published by Arsenal Pulp Press, (2014).