Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Published: May 5th 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

Goodreads Summary: 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.

Contemporaries are an odd genre for me. Yes they can be adorable and sweet but for the most part they make a casual blip on the radar and are all too easily forgotten. There are rare exceptions of course but this book isn't quite up to that standard. Unless they make me cry buckets of tears or break my heart in a profound way I'm hard pressed to rate something any more than three stars.

For the most part, this book was cute and sweet, a bit like the chocolate chip cookies you buy, the ones that you know won't be a disappointment but not anything that will make you feel life-changed. But surprisingly, underneath the layers of fluff and romance there was depth, like discovering the cookie actually has walnuts, which I love. It's not quite the surface romance you would think, with some hidden depth that I appreciated.

We meet Gia, a seventeen year old girl, in the prom parking lot where her boyfriend breaks up with her before they walk in. Cue the warning signs of drama, yet that isn't quite all that's at stake here. I was almost tempted to stop reading this book altogether but decided not to, I had heard such notable praise for this book after all, it seemed a shame to waste it.

There's the romance of course. What contemporary is one without its romance? Not any that I can remember, since at times it feels like the soul of contemporary lies in its romantic tendencies, ones that I personally find endearing although some may disagree. Nevertheless, we meet Gia and her soon to be charming date who will become the titular subject, the "fill-in boyfriend." While usually it takes a lot for a boy to win me over, (this is a blatant lie when it comes to spies and thieves but I digress), the fill-in was just the right kind of gentleman. I adored his presence. And by association brought my favorite character of this book onto the scene.

Okay moving off of the main topic here, let's talk about my real love of this book. Bec, the sister of said fill-in, who won me over with her unapologetic personality. She plays quite the role and I loved everything about her. She's opinionated and loving, unafraid to tell Gia the truth even if it's unflattering and is a true kind of friend. I can't say exactly what she does to ensure my love but she is my favorite thing about this book. Ironic, considering the cuteness and fluff that should have won me over but *shrugs* with this particular brand of contemporary, I'm rarely felled by the romance itself.

Also lets talk high school. It can be a real bitch and we know, more than anything else, how much people go through pseudo-friendships for appearances' sakes, or maybe just because they grew up together. Or maybe that was just my personal experience, since I'm still fresh out of high school and feel particularly bitter. But I've seen first and secondhand, the exact kind of friendship Gia had with her friends. They may be perfect on paper but in real life, well it's quite the story. I admired how West handled this, and I appreciated the turn it took towards the end, since it was a mature and realistic way to resolve the scenario.

The book also goes into her family. Some issues lurk behind the surface of her "perfect" family, and they become all too apparent, especially as she gets to know her "fill-in" boyfriend's family. As is often the case, what seems ideal is not always the greatness it should be, and seeing behind the facade and the familial relationships made me appreciate how they contributed to Gia's development. There were times when I wished we'd gotten to know more about them because while there were key moments, a lot of them seemed too brief for me to really connect with the situation, excepting one involving her brother.

To close this, The Fill-In Boyfriend is one of those books I'll look fondly on, but beyond that I can't say. It was a pleasant read, and I appreciated the honest outlook it offered on life beyond the lighthearted romance and ensuing struggles, but it just didn't have the strength to make me care deeply enough about the characters to rate this 4 stars or higher.

My Rating:★★★ (3.5 stars)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Suspended In November: Where Thanksgiving Is Synonymous With Sleep

I haven't led much of an exciting life recently, in fact notably I saw snow falling for maybe the first time in my arguably short existence, the complications of growing up in an area where snow is nonexistent unless you are one of those people who go up in the winter to go skiing, which I am not, if you count my one disastrous trip many winters ago. On the other end, Christmas decorations have been hung up in my dorm, where my suitemates and I have hung up ornaments in the hall. It's quite pretty, and the photo on the side does not do it any justice.

School is a nightmare, as you can see from my title, I have been plagued with poor sleep especially since Daylight Savings Time ended here. I spent an absolute deplorable two weeks waking myself up at 7am instead of the much more comfortable 8am, no matter how late I went to sleep at, without an alarm. Horrid experience, to say the least, until my body finally understood that Daylight Savings Time is over, and I went back to my not-so-excellent sleeping habits, that is until Thanksgiving break last week, where I almost slept the entire week away. I am now in crisis mode, since I had planned on it being the week of accomplishment and hyperproductivity, but alas, that did not happen.

As for literary updates, I seem to have developed a terrible habit of buying books almost impulsively, as the sorry state of my bank account testifies to. I entirely blame this on the fact that I have been more aware of the book community, both by being a blogger and by the fact that I follow the community quite diligently on twitter. Add that to the cherished friends I have made in the past year, and I am an easy target for the hype and allure of newly published books.

Some recent acquisitions this month include Illuminae, The Young Elites, Winter, and Soundless (courtesy of Owlcrate, which I ordered for the first time this month). Add to this the monster haul that I ordered from the annual Black Friday sale on BookOutlet, and I have quite a lot of reading to catch up on. I also read a few books, though not enough to be quite proud of, and not nearly enough enjoyment to satisfy my tastes. These include Tell the Wind and Fire, which was not quite as phenomenonal as I wanted it to be considering Sarah Rees Brennan is one of my favorite authors though my tastes may change by the time I write my review since it's teetering between stars; For the Record, which lasted an appalling chapter before I realized my inner bitterness was pooling over and was thus swiftly abandoned; Steal Me, which was as witty and fun as Layne's books usually are; With Every Breath, which did not suit my tastes and I realized the utter depth of my callousness because I couldn't muster up the polite amount of empathy for these two characters; and my favorite of the month: Long Way Down, the penultimate book in the Addicted Series, extended edition, which I adored and cried over a ton, this is one of those emotional ones that mercilessly destroy your heart and build it back up. As part of one of my most cherished series, this book will forever hold a special place in my heart. (Side note: this is a not-so-subtle reminder that you, my friend, should also embrace this venue into the tremendous sway of profound character development and life-investing worth romantic relationships, among other qualities.)

In terms of other media, I have the unfortunate terrible habit of watching one too many tv shows, or at least, starting them. I'm in the habit of going back to watch older shows, and such the shows I watch vary quite in age and genre. As of now, I just started the very well-received Jessica Jones, which is as exceptional as I expected, with a dark and gritty undertone often overlooked in the beloved Marvel cinematic features onscreen; The O.C., which was a purely impulsive choice, seeing as I was tempted by watching videos of cute TV show couples on Youtube, a truly deplorable habit, but it's quite amusing and I am breezing through it, a welcome change from the gritty realities of other shows; Criminal Minds, one of the aforementioned "gritty realities," a show that makes me question the safety of well, pretty much any location to live in; and Sherlock, which I'm ashamed to say I've never seen until my roommate finally talked me into starting it last month.

A well-deserved adieu to November with its relentless exams and sleep deprivation, and hello to December, where the daunting finals await me. I hope you have all been well, and let me know, have you seen any of these shows or read these books? I wish you all a very lovely December, the season of holidays and snow.