INT. SUBURBAN HOUSE. AFTERNOON. A blogger, CARLY, finishes reading How to Make a Movie in 12 Days. She holds up THE BOOK and looks towards the camera with a grin.
This debut middle grade novel by Fiona Hardy is amazing! It’s funny, heartfelt, mysterious and made me want to watch every movie mentioned in it.
Tell them about my synopsis!
Great idea, awesome book!
Eleven-year-old film enthusiast, Hayley Whelan, has wanted to make a horror movie her whole life. When Hayley’s grandmother passes away, she’s gifted a video camera from the inheritance so she can make her film ‘Rosebud’ over the holidays with her friends. But Hayley is in for some horrors of her own when it becomes clear that someone is trying to sabotage her movie.
Firstly, I loved how prominent Hayley’s joy for filmmaking was.
She loves directing, she loves creating storyboards, she knows all the ins and outs of what makes a film production work. Her family even converted the backyard shed into a studio for her. This is why the mystery element of the story works in a really interesting way too, because Hayley is so savvy about genre tropes that she can subvert them at times and almost ‘break the fourth wall’ of the novel by addressing them.
Another really fun part of the book is the movie guide that’s included at the end. It’s in character as Hayley and her dad, Kirk, provide commentary on films they’ve chosen for Hayley’s friends (aka her film crew/actors) to watch. This is a section on the Ghostbusters franchise:
HAYLEY’S GUIDE FOR ADULTS
Adults can learn from Venkman about how you can be a terrible person who electrocutes people but still be the main character everyone watching wants to get the girl. They can also learn that movies made with a team of girls can be just as funny as movies made with a team of boys, which was somehow not completely obvious.
KIRK’S GUIDE FOR KIDS
Slimer – Ghostbusters’ best see-through ghoul – knows that making slime is great fun! Your parents will love finding it stuck to the couch, or accidentally putting it in the washing machine, or in their favourite shoes. (pg. 276)
Hayley was definitely a favourite character of mine, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention her five-year-old sister, Jennifer. She was honestly hilarious, and I wish I possessed even one quarter of the self-confidence this kid has. Hayley and Jennifer have the love/hate sibling relationship perfected (along with their older teenage brother, Lucas), and some of the stuff Jennifer said or did to torment her sister had me rolling. She marches to the beat of her own bag of oranges (that’ll make more sense once you read the book!). It’s hard to narrow down my favourite Jennifer moments, but this one, from when Hayley was leaving a note for a potential cast member, made me cackle:
Sorry to have missed you. Please contact Hayley regarding an audition at your earliest convenience. It was much easier to do this on paper.
“That looks like the note my kinder teacher sent home for Dad,” Jennifer said.
“Where do you think I got the wording from?” I said. “Thanks for being naughty all the time.”
“You’re welcome,” she said politely. (pg. 35-36)
There were a lot of great connections between Hayley and other characters too including her grandma, Iris, and the legacy she left when she died. Iris wasn’t the soft and cuddly type, and didn’t flaunt her affection in obvious ways, but you could tell the bond between them was strong. Hayley is making the film as a tribute to Iris as they had been planning it (and Iris was even to star in it) before she passed. Fiona explores grief in genuine and real ways, particularly in moments with Hayley and her mum, as Iris was her mother. Another connection Hayley has is with her group of buddies she’s asked to be in her film crew, plus one extra person who’s not a pal but their fabulous acting is needed. This makes for an interesting and heartfelt source of conflict and unexpected dynamics as the mystery unfolds.
I enjoyed this novel a lot. Fiona’s written a wonderful debut and I hope to read many more middle grade books (or any books really!) from her in the future.
*roll the credits*