A friend and I just saw Young Adult, a movie in which Charlize Theron plays Mavis, the alcoholic ghostwriter of a popular YA series called Waverly Prep (Gossip Girls, more or less, with less brand name-dropping). Her life is miserable and empty, so she decides to return to her hometown to get her high school boyfriend back. The problem, naturally, is that he’s happily married with a new baby.
This has sort of been done before, of course. But unlike in, say, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Mavis is actually a thoroughly terrible human being. She manipulates everyone around her, has zero compassion, is basically the high school queen of popularity who never figured out that in order to be successful in the adult world you have to at some point give a crap about someone other than yourself. Because Charlize Theron is a fantastic actress, though, she was never a caricature. Awkward as hell to watch, yes. But believable. I appreciate a movie in which the protagonist is unlikeable in every way, but you still can’t help but feel compassion for her.
From a YA perspective (because let’s be honest, why do you think I saw this movie?): I loved that Mavis’s character, Kendall, is exactly as vapid and in love with herself as Mavis is, in a way that perfectly nails that genre of YA. Mavis hasn’t grown up much since high school, and the books she writes are the kind of YA that are in no way about personal growth. (Fortunately this genre seems to be on the wane.) My main objection is the covers, which look like Scholastic reprints of middle grade Boxcar Children novels or something. How about some headless photos of girls in stylish prep school uniforms? Come on, I could design you some covers for this shiz in about 20 minutes.
This was a third-life crisis movie, which is my current favorite topic. I am, in particular, working on a theory that if I read more books written for grown-ups about grown-up lives, I might be able to make a more coherent, mature story of my own life. This movie possibly supports that theory, but I can’t quite decide whether it made me feel better or worse about my life.