Published: May 5th 2015
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)