Back-to-back non-fiction reviews – this never happens here on EDIWTB!
I will start off by saying that if you are not a fan of the 80s or the movies, you should stop reading right now.
If you are a fan of either the 80s or the movies, then this is a book for you: You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried, by Susannah Gora. Gora's book is a detailed, thorough, juicy and insightful chronicle of the making of the great 80s teen movies like The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Say Anything, etc. I grew up in the 80s, and those were the formative movies for me. I was pretty much the same age as Samantha Baker when Sixteen Candles came out, and I was looking ahead toward college when I saw St. Elmo's Fire, so those movies were both aspirational and reflective of what I was going through at the time.
Chapter by chapter, Gora explores the making of these movies – the scripts, the casting, the direction, and the behind-the-scenes scoop you've always wondered about – as well as the importance of the movies' soundtracks, the relationship between the legendary director/writer/producer John Hughes and his young cast members, the writing of the article that coined the term "Brat Pack", and the impact these movies have had on filmmaking in the decades since. While Gora is clearly a huge fan of these films, her book is clear-eyed and objective, her storytelling clear and readable. She talked to all the major players (actors, directors, critics) from the decade, with the exception of the man who is the focus of most of the book (Hughes), a recluse for the last few decades of his life.
I especially loved the chapter about movie soundtracks and how much importance Hughes placed on the selection of the songs that formed the backdrop for his most pivotal scenes. He "introduced many American teenagers [including this one!] to the wistful world of New Wave music" and believed that music "gave a more textured sense of who these characters were, since at that age, music is so clearly linked with identity."
I can't really do You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried justice in a short review; there is so much in here that I found interesting. It's definitely a trip down memory lane, but also a compelling look at a decade of filmmaking that transformed a genre and made a permanent impact on the directors and actors we watch today. Like I said at the beginning, this book isn't for everyone. But if you're 80s-obsessed like me (look at the name of my blog!), or simply want to know more about these iconic movies, I highly recommend picking this book up.
Susannah Gora has generously offered to give away a copy of You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried on EDIWTB. If you want to win, comment here before Monday, April 12 and tell me your favorite 80s movie or soundtrack song. (Mine is easy: "If You Were Here" by the Thompson Twins, which played at the end of Sixteen Candles when Jake waits for Samantha outside the church. Sigh.) Oh and hi FTC! This was a review copy thanks to Gora and Crown.
Good luck, and long live the 80s.