Series: The Fine Art of Pretending #1
Published by Spencer Hill Press on September 30th, 2014
Genres: contemporary, young adult
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According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date-Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy's biggest hottie and most notorious player. With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school's second biggest hottie, and now Aly's pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from funny friend to tempting vixen is only a matter of time. But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable break up leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can't explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.
By now you guys know that this isn’t really my type of book. I’m not big into light and fluffy, and I’m not a huge fan of romance. I love romance in my books, but I don’t really read romance genre books. But one of my favorite romance tropes is fake dating. And Debby from Snuggly Oranges knows her romance and she gave The Fine Art of Pretending 4 stars. So with that, I thought, what the hell, let’s try it out.
Now, I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t love it either. This was fun to read, but it was really lacking in depth. There is literally nothing else going on in this book except for the romance. Aly wants to make herself over into the kind of girl she thinks guys are attracted to. So she enlists the help of her best friend Brandon and they pretend their hooking up, hoping that this kind of spurs other guys into action and they start to see Aly as more than a friend. But the pretend dating ignites romantic feelings in the both of them and it muddies up their relationship. Look, I absolutely LOVE the will-they-won’t-they tension of this kind of situation. But since there was nothing else to guide the story along, it got kind of stale kind of quickly. Sadly, there was hardly any steaminess or sexiness, though. There were two great kiss scenes and in between them were roughly 200 pages.
I really liked the two main characters. I felt that Rachel Harris really captured the high school experience. Aly was well-rounded but not unrealistic. She’s an athlete and she coaches younger girls. She is good at English but horrible at math. She bakes in her spare time, hangs out with her two closest friends. She just seemed like the typical teenage girl, at least some of the girls that I knew. I appreciated that she wasn’t some special snowflake of a character who got straight A’s without even trying, was super hot and super popular without even noticing, and was the best at everything. Aly was balanced out and she felt very real to me. Her emotional responses were sometimes immature, but not too bad, and she wasn’t all wise beyond her years either. Brandon – I’m not too sure about him. I didn’t understand the teenage boy ten years ago and I don’t pretend to now. He’s afraid of commitment, loves his friends fiercely and loyally, he’s a middling student, and has a good relationship with his family. But his voice, while very similar to Aly’s, never felt completely whole. But I DID love reading from his point of view anyway because it did give further insights into his seemingly irrational behavior. That was an awesome sort of fulfillment that I wish I had as a teenager trying to navigate the murky waters of the teenage boy’s mind.
I guess my overall feeling towards The Fine Art of Pretending is: what was the point? Aly’s motivations were mostly confusing. She wanted boys to notice her, so she started dressing differently and acting differently. But she had no particular boy in mind, finally settling with one of the popular boys, Justin, for no real reason. She was already friends with the popular crows (except for one ultrablond ultrabitch of course) so she didn’t have to change to fit in. She said she wanted to be the kind of girl boys wanted to hookup with, but she didn’t actually want to hook up with any boys. I guess it all felt very forced and contrived. It would have made much more sense if she had a long time crush on that popular boy, Justin, or if she wanted to lose her virginity or SOMETHING. I wasn’t really sure what she wanted out of her crazy makeover.
Of course, I kind of understand where Aly is coming from, in being tired of being seen as one type of girl. She’s tired of being everyone’s friend and wants to be seen as desirable and sexy. It’s hard being ignored or having your feelings be trampled over. In Aly’s world, there are Casuals, the girls you hook up with, and Commitments, the girls who want a relationship. Commitments are just too much work for most guys and that’s why Aly gets looked over all the time. Casual girls are only looking for one thing too. Being lumped into those categories is nothing new, but I think Harris missed a vital third group: the girls who are only looked at as hookups but WANT something more. There was this dichotomy set up in Aly’s world where Casuals were okay with their status and didn’t want to be Commitments. I think that misses a huge portion of teen girls.
Anyway. Without anything else happening aside from the romance, I can’t say I rate this highly. It was a fun quick read, and definitely something to pick up if you’re looking for light and fluffy with big love declarations at the end. But don’t expect anything deeper than that. This book didn’t even dive into the fact that Brandon only wanted Aly after she was “hot.” So what I’m saying is: don’t look too hard into The Fine Art of Pretending. It’s enjoyable and fun and has a few great laughs.