Read it and Weep is peak DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie, for those who never experienced this magic). It has the best of somewhere-in-Canada-or-California-Suburbia sets, not-bad-but-not-great acting, and a ridiculous concept that could only be dreamt up by a mouse-brained maniac.
In this film, a high-school aged girl, Jamie, “accidentally” publishes her personal diaries (thanks to some dubious direction from Mom) which becomes a mega blockbuster bestseller.
While I’d love to delve into the intricacies of the Hallmark movie level filmmaking, fabulously iffy writing, or… whatever it is she’s wearing here:
What I will be reviewing today is the accuracy of how they portray the world writing and publishing.
While I may be only a self-published author (read inter_linked The Series – it’s free!) I’ve done a lot of research on publishing and done a little querying on my own, not to mention reading just about every entry in Query Shark and very briefly interning at an agency. So I’m almost an expert.
Here we go:
Sometimes Your Characters Will Talk to You and No, They Don’t Shut Up
One of the main elements of Read It and Weep is that Jamie and her wish-fulfillment character Isabella, or “Is”, are played by sisters Kay and Danielle Panabaker and they snip and sass and argue with each other constantly.
This is basically what a day in the life of a writer is. Getting into real actual out loud fights with these imaginary people until they tell you what they want to say.
Being An Author Is Just a Ton Of Work
Jamie is seen doing book signing after endless book signings, TV appearances, and just a load of parties rife with schmoozing and being friendly to annoying executives.
Being an author these days is a LOT of work. Most authors – even those with “Big Five” publishing houses! – have to do their own promotional work, schedule their own signings, and then are sent on lengthy book tours. Sorry, Jamie. This is just how it goes.
Backlash Is Inevitable
When everyone finds out what Jamie wrote, they are instantly mad at her, harassing her in school, vandalizing her author events, and making her life generally just kind of miserable.
While I can’t personally say that I’ve gotten any backlash for my books – aside from a few choice comments on my opinion on video games – but that’s really common, especially when writing directly about people you know.
Life protip: Do NOT do this. Do not write about your teachers or your parents or your friends or even places in your hometown. There will always be someone who be upset, and it’s generally pretty uncool. Even if you’re saying nice things, being put up on a pedestal isn’t exactly somewhere you want to be.
You can probably sneak in your dog, though. Dogs have no shame when it comes to flattery and can’t write angry tweets with their lack of opposable thumbs.
As You Wish
“Is Saves the World” (the in-universe, megabestseller novel) is wish fulfillment. Any time Is comes across something daunting, dangerous, or something she just doesn’t like, she ZAPs away the problem and all is perfect and fine.
While this may seem unrealistic and short on anything resembling a plot, think about Twilight. Ender’s Game. Ready Player One. Or just about any book you can think of. They’re power fantasies, stories of ordinary people who rose above to become extraordinary. And these stories sell.
Even give the movie itself a think, what is it actually about? A teenage girl getting something every teenage girl dreams about: attention, power, stardom, to be heard. The movie in itself is a power fantasy, and I definitely had high hopes for becoming a blockbuster writer at 14 after this film!
The plot kicks off when a mysterious “they” finds out about Jamie’s contest-winning essay (which turned out to be several hundred pages of her illustrated diaries that somehow also got printed in the school newspaper which I guess kids care about now). The publishing company only gets mentioned once offhandedly and Jamie has a “handler” for her PR events and photoshoots.
In real life, 90% of books are discovered by “querying”, or writing a very specific letter to an agent. If that agent likes your letter, they will request a “partial”, or a part of your manuscript to read, or a “full request” which is the entire thing, and that’s pretty rare.
After that, your book gets shopped around to editors, publishers, and sometimes even other agents in the same house if they have a relationship with a publisher who might be interested.
Honestly, I think that would make a much more interesting story – at least to me. The story of how Jamie’s very personal words get twisted around to be this monster of a “bestseller”, how something “zappy” that caught the hearts and minds of a small town becomes the bland, vanilla, formulaic blah that will end up on the 50% off table at Barnes and Noble within a month.
But maybe I was the only tween who enjoyed rants about the finer points of the Oxford Comma.
Name in the Game
Let’s not forget the fact that Jamie is a minor. She’s 15 or 16 at most. Young enough that she couldn’t sign her own contracts (which is horrifying when you think about it, her parents pretty much signed her up for this harassment and mistreatment by her peers, way to go.)
So the fact that she doesn’t write under a pseudonym or even her initials – which many female authors do to begin with – is baffling.
Sure, the folks of her hometown know exactly who she is and what she’s written, that’s inevitable. But consider that we know for a fact that this is the mid-early days of the internet. Someone could easily Google her name and come up with her phone number and home address.
Sure, it might have taken some convincing to get herself to pick something that’s not Selene Lunesta Maximillion McAllisterCrowley, but it would be worth it. Not using a nom de plume, especially that young, is just asking for trouble.
It Also Has No Plot, Just Saying
Is comes across a big bad monster who is also the big bad cheerleader of her school. Is ZAPs the monster away. Is wins. Is gets the boy. Yay.
If you’ve paid even the smallest modicum of attention to this film, you’ll notice that this is basically the “plot” of the entire book, the Not Oprah interviewing Jamie even says so. (Her meltdown on that show would land her on “Top 10 Celebrity Freakouts” lists for at least a decade to come).
Were this the real world, a developmental editor would have sat her down and showed her a three-act structure chart from ‘go’, if her manuscript even got a partial request to begin with. There’s no way this kind of thing would fly, even in a Middle Grade novel.
Read It And Weep is not a bad movie, just wildly inaccurate. Authors do not end up on TRL, have to put in a lot more work, and “Is Saves The World” probably wouldn’t get very far on its own merits.
But I love this movie. It’s the most mid-00s film ever made (she has a tablet PC with a touch screen, but not her own blog for crispysakes!)
But it has a special place in my nostalgic little heart.
Have you seen this film or watched it after this breakdown?
What did you think?
Leave me a comment below!
All photos copyright Disney unless otherwise stated, used for review purposes only. Please don’t sue, I don’t have any money because I’m a self-published author.