Book Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend
By: Kasie West
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Page Count: 352
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
On the Fence was one of my favorite reads of 2014 so I was ecstatic when this little beauty arrived in a package from Harper. I wasn't expecting this one so I frantically shuffled things around in my review schedule so I could launch myself into this one as soon as possible. I was expecting to find compelling relationships and layered characters. West yet again delivers a fun, sweet romance that is the perfect fit for your Spring or Summer reading list.
Gia Montgomery has a seemingly perfect existence: her parents are still together and still into each other, her older brother is off conquering the world at UCLA, she is the student body president, and she's counting down the days until she packs up for her own UCLA adventures. On top of all this perfection, Gia is one of the most popular girls at school and she is dating a hot college guy. She has everything she could ever want, but when Bradley (aka the college guy) breaks up with her in the parking lot before prom, Gia can't seem to remember why her life was so perfect. She can't find the strength to walk into prom and admit to her friends that she got dumped on one of the biggest nights of high school. The night is supposed to be magical - one of those moments you remember for the rest of your life - not one that you'd rather forget as you bury yourself in a pint of Ben and Jerry's. To make matters worse, the newest addition to Gia's friend group, Jules, is hell bent on making Gia's life miserable. Gia can't own up to the break up and let Jules win so she hatches a brilliant plan to cover up the evidence. She finds a handsome guy in the parking lot and sweet talks him into being her fill-in Bradley for the evening. This chance meeting will send Gia's life down paths she never could have dreamed of and teach her that there is more to life than the image of perfection.
It took me some time to find Gia a sympathetic character. It isn't until she begins to bond with Hayden and Bec that I started to enjoy her. I found that she had to work for my affection unlike Hayden and Bec who were instantly likable. I enjoyed watching Gia's transformation from self-centered Queen Bee to someone who truly thought about others and her own place in the complex hierarchy of high school. It was nice for Gia to emerge from her popularity cocoon and realize a whole world existed beyond its walls. I also felt like Gia's friendship with Bec was a model for how friendships should operate. The friendship with the other girls never felt important. This could be due to the fact that Gia is disengaged from her old friends which forced me to put them at a distance as well. In particular, I couldn't stand Jules. I know I was supposed to feel sorry for her on some level, but I couldn't muster up any empathy.
In addition to the commentary on friendship, I loved the relationship between Gia and Hayden. These two are opposites in so many ways, but they find common ground in their humor and loyalty. The relationship evolves in a gradual, realistic way. It was interesting to have romance take a back seat for the majority of the novel.
Furthermore, the complexity of family takes center stage in this one. Gia's family is the sort that is perfect on the surface, but nobody actually speaks about what's hidden underneath. Nobody in Gia's family articulates their thoughts or feelings well. It was nice to watch the miscommunication break down as everyone was able to see clearly how perfection is a myth. I preferred the moments spent at Hayden's house where everything seemed more real and imperfect. Hayden's mother was a source of wisdom. I'll think twice before uttering the phrase, "I'm fine".
All in all, I enjoyed this one, but I didn't find it as strong as On the Fence. It took awhile for me to become emotionally invested in this one and the beginning seemed to drag at times. The 50% mark is where I truly hit my reading stride.
One Last Gripe: I didn't understand a lot of Gia's choices in the beginning. She had so many chances to come clean about prom night. I felt like she allowed Jules to dictate her actions.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I enjoyed the various relationships that drive this story, but I loved the brother/sister bond between Hayden and Bec.
First Sentence: In some part of my brain, probably the logical part that seemed to be missing at the moment, I knew I should let go and walk away, maintain some of my dignity.
Favorite Character: Hayden
Least Favorite Character: Jules
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.