Every once in a while, as an adult who reads a lot of YA, I encounter a book that I wish had existed when I was still a teenager. This Book is Not Yet Rated by Peter Bognanni is one of those books.
The Green Street Cinema has always been a sanctuary for Ethan. Maybe it’s because movies help him make sense of real life, or maybe it’s because the cinema is the one place he can go to still feel close to his dad, a film professor who died three years ago. Either way, it’s a place worth fighting for, especially when developers threaten to tear it down to build a luxury condos.
They say it’s structurally unsound and riddled with health code violations. They clearly don’t understand that the crumbling columns and even Brando, the giant rat with a taste for sour patch kids, are a part of the fabric of this place that holds together the misfits and the dreamers of the changing neighborhood the cinema house has served for so many years.
Now it’s up to the employees of the Green Street Cinema–Sweet Lou the organist with a penchant for not-so-sweet language; Anjo the projectionist, nicknamed the Oracle for her opaque-but-always-true proclamations; Griffin and Lucas who work the concessions, if they work at all; and Ethan, known as “Wendy,” the leader of these Lost Boys–to save the place they love.
It’s going to take a movie miracle if the Green Street is going to have a happy ending. And when Raina, Ethan’s oldest friend (and possible soul mate?), comes back home from Hollywood where she’s been starring in B-movies about time-traveling cats, Ethan thinks that miracle just may have been delivered. But life and love aren’t always like the movies. And when the employees of the Green Street ask what happens in the end to the Lost Boys, Ethan has to share three words he’s not been ready to say.
This story just spoke to 17-year-old me and my movie obsessed self, who thought she wanted to go to film school and direct movies. (HA. Hahahahahahaha. Hahaha. Ha.) I could relate to so much of this book, even though my life didn’t even remotely resemble the main character’s. This is a book that was made for my teenage self, and as such, it oozed with nostalgia for me.
But aside from my personal feelings on this book, it’s also just a wonderfully charming coming-of-age story (and ya’ll know how much I LOVE a good coming-of-age story). Ethan is a sweet kid, who is mature for his age in some ways, and yet still struggling with the idea of growing up and moving on (and understandably so, give the circumstances of his life). Seeing him work through his personal issues and figure out how to move forward with his life makes for a heartfelt, emotional, and sometimes very funny story.
This Book is Not Yet Rated wouldn’t be what it is without the colorful cast of characters that inhabit Ethan’s world, including his coworkers at the movie theater, his old friend Raina, his mom, and even his late dad (who we get to know through Ethan’s memories and anecdotes).
Adding to the cinephile feel of the book is the way Bognanni has interspersed Ethan’s journal of movie term “definitions,” and how he relates them to his own life. It’s a nice nod to the notion that we’re all stars in the movie of our own life.
With bittersweet notes, outrageously funny moments, and an achingly honest emotional portrayal of grief, love, and growing up, This Book is Not Yet Rated has a little something for everything. Look for it in stores April 9th.