Sunday, 17 January 2016

Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Title: The Fill-in Boyfriend
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: May 5th, 2015
Genres: Young adult, fiction, romance, contemporary

The Fill-In Boyfriend

When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.
The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.
Confession: this is my first ever novel by Kasie West. I know, I know, shocking. But true. Whenever I ask for contemporary recommendations I am bombarded with tweets suggesting her novels, but it can be a little intimidating. I can now say that I am a fan. You know when you're in a terrible reading slump, and it kind of makes you want to impale yourself in the eye? No? Well, it's a feeling I've come to know quite well, and what I've found that occasionally works is light, breezy and cute contemporaries. And you know, when I see my all-time favourite trope appear (a.k.a the fake relationship) I simply can't help myself. The characters in this novel are really what won me over.

Initially, the protagonist Gia Montgomery seemed to me like an over-privileged and prissy white girl. Her boyfriend Bradley dumped her and her biggest worry is having to walk into prom alone? Sure, I can understand that is a sad occurrence and he pulled a jerk move, but at first, I really couldn't blame him. Especially not when the first thing on her mind, after not seeing her boyfriend for weeks, was how her friends were going to react when he didn't show up. If there's one thing I dislike its characters who are too reliant on other people's opinions. She also comes across as conceited, shallow and a little bit clueless, though I disliked this, it truly added depth to her character and made it all the more genuine.

Gia's initial imbecilic actions are all the result of peer pressure, mainly stemming from her frenemy Jules, who honestly, was such a snob. (more on that later) Gia is the archetypal queen bee, the head of her pack, student council president, most popular girl in her school. But these titles often come with a price, and as such, Gia feels like she constantly has to prove herself and present an image of perfection. Jules, in my opinion, was basically Regina George. She was incredibly snarky and ill-mannered, but Gia goes along with what Jules does, because anything less could ruin her image. Though she also has her friends Claire and Laney, they're kind of clueless about Jule's active mission to dethrone Gia as Queen Bee and kick her out of the group. Gia's parents are also not the nicest people, along with her other friends but I feel that this really emphasised and heightened Gia's growth.

Thankfully, after such childish behaviour in the beginning, we begin to see Gia's true colours as the story progresses. She finally comes to her senses, and she truly FEELS how shallow she had been, and how toxic her previous friendships had been. She grows up, alot, and in such an honest manner.

Our fill-in boyfriend, Hayden, was my favourite part of this book. I'm a sucker for some witty banter. He's also incredibly kind, intelligent, charming a bit of a drama nerd, and extremely loyal. However, I think maybe he was too loyal. Throw in some suckish friends, and a horrible ex-girlfriend and the stakes are a little high. As much as I adored him, at times I kind of wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake some sense into that handsome head of his. Aside from those few moments, I absolutely loooooooved Hayden. Ahhhh. He's kind of the perfect package, talented, honest and he comes from a super tight-knight family. He was too sweet for words. I have no words. Just these: <3 <3 <3

The chemistry between Gia and Hayden was through the roof. From the beginning I could see they were a fit. They had this natural, comfortable dynamic that didn't feel forced or exaggerated. Major points to Kasie West!! They were comfortable, and brought out the best in each other. He brought out her kindness, and helped her to realise she'd been surrounded by the wrong people, and she encouraged him to pursue his passion of film and acting. Whereas Gia was very closed-off and hid her feelings, as she was conditioned to by her family, she began to express herself and express her emotions honestly. Hayden makes Gia want to be better, their relationship challenges her to grow, and that's what makes it so beautiful.

As you can see, I really love these two. They're an incredible duo.

I can't forget to mention Bec, Hayden's little sister. She was another incredible character. She's the kickass kind of girl who speaks her mind and doesn't take crap from anybody. Especially when it comes to protecting her older brother. Also, I love the friendship that blossoms between Gia and Bec, it made my heart soar.

I was rather apprehensive about this book, but I must admit I was overall impressed. The writing was light and brisk to read, and the pacing was perfect. As with most fake relationship tropes, the plot was fairly predictable, but I felt that the obstacles were still very well developed and very realistic. West's dialogue felt completely natural, and the witty banter was next level. What did surprise me though, was that this book wasn't nearly as fluffy as the cover represents it to be, it was just the right amount of fluff.

Also I noticed a little bit of commentary on the social media generation. West emphasises the fact of how many teens nowadays construct their self-image around what would get the most likes or followers online. I think this addition really kept the book relevant, and made it feel all the more real.

Kasie West has really hit it home with this one, she told a sweet story that had its many obstacles, all of which are relevant to issues that plague teenagers lives today. I didn't expect to love the story, but it was the cast of characters that mad my heart sing. The characters were so incredible genuine, and their story is one that I have adored. I think I'll be picking up West's other contemporaries in the very near future.

5 out of 5 keys to my heart!

Have any of you read this book? I'm very curious to hear what you all thought. (also I would love to swoon over Hayden with you)

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