Overall Grade: All the ⭐️
“And Canon and Monk and Verity and all the storytellers, musicians, and artists who benefit from the path she forged. From the way she and so many others made for us during untenable circumstances, in adversity and against impossible odds. She carried me and I carry her, and somehow, we are knitted together in a way that reaches across generations, across years, binding our hearts.”
Anticipation. Adulation. Affecting.
These words explain the feelings going into Kennedy Ryan’s Reel.
Reading Kennedy Ryan is a viscerally profound experience. The palpability of her words that bleed into scenes that grow into pages and metamorphize into fully realized stories overwhelms your senses and makes you feel the depth of emotion. Ryan’s newest story, Reel, is quintessential Ryan. The turn of the page is a taunt. What will you encounter? What emotion will she evoke? What tragedy will she dispense? Reel is all of that. It’s real emotion, it’s real thinking, and it’s real life.
The profundity of Ryan’s Reel is her attention to storytelling. There is always something more in her stories. It isn’t simply a romance in this newest book. It’s an interrogation of ideas such as art as a savior, the responsibility of representation and the need to amplify marginalized voices, storytelling as a marker of truth, equity for women, workplace innovations, and the gravity of disease. These ideas are emphatically drawn by Ryan to challenge readers, to stoke thinking, and to change the genre of romance. Reel makes us transcend the genre, focusing us on its art form through Ryan’s exacting and brilliantly crafted storytelling. Those ideas, though, are but a single part of this book. With that, Ryan challenges people to live life in the moment, culling out every second since the past is dead and the future is but a promise. She utilizes her hero, Canon, and her heroine, Neevah to mete out that truth. Ryan underscores this truth with the power behind ambition if used for good to show the impact of her characters. And these are only Reel’s messages. This book is philosophical and didactic giving it a weight that sets it miles beyond other romances.
This doesn’t even speak to the stylistic choices of Reel. There is brilliance afoot. Reel is cinematic in and of itself thanks to Kennedy Ryan’s careful craftsmanship. She has made choices for this book that will thrill you because it plays with the narrative of romance. Add to that her already famous style, and you find yourself lost to her story. Her ability to paint the story into being with her words makes you surrender your heart to Canon and Neevah. This book set in the world of movies feels cinematic in its expression. Vivid moments carefully crafted to evoke specific emotions from its reader. There is intent with every word, every moment, and every page of this book. From word choice to allusion, from intentionally curated phrases to images wrought with fierce possession, you see Canon and Neevah’s journey fashioned on the pages of Reel.
It amazes me how Reel makes me think of the mantel of responsibility sitting firmly on the shoulders of a BIPOC author such as Kennedy Ryan. Based on her newest book, she wears it well, and as its book’s reader, I feel privileged to have spent time in it, to have been challenged and titillated by it. But that’s what she does so impressively.
Kennedy Ryan’s Reel is a story about stories. It’s a reminder that all stories need space, and I found as I became lost in her book that I needed this one. I needed to feel challenged and mesmerized. I needed to be reminded of how much more the romance genre can be. I needed this book at this moment right now: a story about the past living fully whole in the present. And the promise of more stories in her Hollywood Renaissance series leaves me anticipatory for the rest.
In love and romance,