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‘This Book Is Not Yet Rated:’ Book Review

“And whenever my mother or anyone else well-meaning asks me why I spend so much time in a darkened room, staring at a glowing screen, I answer with a question of my own: Why do you live one life?  As in: Why be content with one life when you could live one thousand and ninety-five?  A few of them are bound to be more interesting that your own.  Or in my case: most of them.”  – Chapter 1, This Book Is Not Yet Rated

Film critic Pauline Kael wrote a book called I Lost It at the Movies.

Everyone has that one place.  The theatre they popped their cherry in.  (No, I don’t mean like that!)  The theatre where they first sat in rapt awe and swelled with unabashed joy at the story unreeling on the screen before them.  Where the outside world actually… went… away(!). And when the last feet of film rolled through the projector, you had to blink and bring yourself back to your normal, mundane world.

17-year-old Ethan has that place.  It’s the Green Street Theatre where he learned to love movies from a young age with his film-professor father, before he passed away.

Now, Ethan runs the theatre, shepherding the ragtag group of Lost Boys (and Girls) who staff the facility: the ragtag Concessions team of Griffin and Lucas, the aging cussing organist Sweet Lou, a candy-addicted rat named Brando, and the projectionist Anjo who has been nursing an obsession with Steve McQueen and living behind the projection booth for a number of years.

The only one missing is Raina, Ethan’s oldest friend and the great love of his life who left their town for a life in Hollywood, acting in sci-fi movies about time-traveling cats.

But the real world is about to invade Ethan’s home-away-from home as the Green Street faces foreclosure and demolition and has has to marshal all of his resources and wits to try to find a miracle and save the crumbling theatre.  Failing to do so will mean he will have to face the ultimate challenge: the real world.

Writer Peter Bognanni has written a heartwarming YA paean to first loves, first losses, movies, and the people who love them.  Told in compelling and honest first-person narrative, he intersperses Ethan’s story of coming to grips with his situation and growing up with Ethan’s own versions of classic film terms.



A shot filmed at a tilted camera angle.

When shown on a screen, the subject of the shot looks tilted, too.  It’s often used when the world is the film seems completely out of balance.

Do I really need to explain the significance of this one?

Bognanni deftly captures the feelings of teenage angst without resorting to heavy handed clichés, and he brings to life those wonderful feelings that come out amongst all the grey of those times.  Yeah, Ethan can be annoying at moments, but we understand why.  Sure, it’s just a decrepit theatre, but it’s also Ethan’s first real home away from home.  Yeah, the staff is all crazy and eccentric, but they’re also the first family that he chose.  Okay, the building may be about to fall down around them, but it’s also Ethan’s last connection to his father.  And in his heartfelt earnest prose, Bognanni’s love letter to the love of film shines all the brighter.  You might not get all of the movie references, but that just means you’ve got some great research to catch up on.  Trust me, you’ll be a better person for it.

Oh yeah.  Where was my Green Street?  Where I first found the other worlds?  The beautifully deco, vintage, and sadly now-defunct Garden Theatre up in San Jose.  May it shine forever.

garden b96

“Everything isn’t over yet,” [his mother] said.  “The building is still standing.”
“For now,” I said.
“Still,” she said, “there are different shades of victories.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Well,’ She said, turning the books around so we looked down at the cover. “Take your dads favorite movie.”
She pointed down at DeNiro on the cover, his gloves at his sides.
“In boxing it’s not always a knockout, right?  Knockouts are actually kind of rare.  Most of the time, it’s a Technical Knockout or a Split Decision.  There’s even some respect in completing all the fight’s rounds.  It’s called ‘going the distance.’”
“How do you know so much about boxing?”
“Your dad made me watch that movie a hundred times when he was writing the book.  I picked up a few things.”
“Going the distance,” I said.
“If they never knock you out,” she said, “they don’t really win.”
-Chapter 33

VERDICT:    FIVE Cinematic CrossFades out of FIVE
(and leave the name of where you lost it in the comments)

Creative Team: Peter Bognanni (writer)
Publisher: Dell Books/Penguin RandomHouse
Click here to purchase.

Tony Caballero, Fanbase Press Contributor



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