{Review} THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND by Kasie West

Interested in checking out Kasie West?
Here are my reviews of two other novels by her, 
Catch up now!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

    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. Instead, I gripped his waist more securely by wrapping my arms around him and pressed my cheek against his chest. Logic was definitely not ruling my brain right now. Desperation was. And even though I knew desperation wasn't attractive, I couldn't help myself.
    He sighed, releasing some air, which allowed me to tighten my hold even more. Isn't that how boa constrictors kill their prey? Not even this thought made me let go.
    "Gia, I'm sorry."
    "Then don't do this. And if you have to, can't it wait two hours?"
    "The fact that yous aid that makes me know it can't. You only care about your friends seeing me."
    "That's not true." Okay, so it was kinda true. But only because of Jules. She'd infiltrated our group a year ago and ever so slowly tried to turn my best friends against me. Her latest claim was that I'd been lying about having a boyfriend for the last two months. So yes, I wanted my friends to see that I had not been lying. That it was she who was trying to divide our group in half. She who was at least one quarter evil. Not me.
    That wasn't the only reason I'd wanted Bradley to come tonight. I had really liked him before he decided to break up with me in the parking lot at prom. But now that he'd pulled out the jerk card, I just needed him to walk inside, prove that he existed, maybe punch Jules in the gut for me, and then walk out. Was that too much to ask? Plus, hello, this was my senior prom. He was really going to make me walk alone into my senior prom, where I could possibly be crowned royalty tonight?
(pgs. 1-2, US ARC edition)

Gia Montgomery has it all: She's top dog among her friends, popular, and likely to win the coveted tiara at her senior prom. She's even dating an older boy in college, Bradley. Her parents think he's too old and her friends think he doesn't exist. When Bradley dumps Gia in the parking lot on prom night, she flips out. What is she going to do? How could he ruin her night? Amongst her friends, Jules has been spreading rumors that Bradley didn't exist and that Gia was reaching out for attention by making him up. If she goes into her prom without a date, everyone will stop being her friend because they'll think she's a big fat liar. Luckily, she notices a guy sitting in his parked car who had just dropped his sister off at prom and convinces him to go home, get dressed up, and come back to be her date. She'll pretend he's Bradley. Her friends are suitably impressed, and Gia is able to enjoy prom. But after it's over, she wants to find Fill-In-Bradley and can't stop thinking about him! Can a relationship built on lies turn into something real?

I really enjoyed ON THE FENCE and THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US. After reading the two of them, Kasie West went onto my auto-read list--and very few contemporary authors make that list!! I love the way she develops character, the way she looks at family. I love how clean the books are and how I can comfortably recommend them to pre-teens. I've been super super SUPER looking forward to THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND.

I didn't fall in love with this book the way I wanted to, and it breaks my heart to admit that. THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND is a prime example of a "me" thing! To put it simply, I didn't like the main character, Gia. Yes, I'm that girl. If I don't like the MC, I struggle to care and the book falls flat. I also will have a harder time recommending this to younger readers even though it's still clean in the same way that I have trouble recommending best-selling series Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Junie B. Jones. A lot of parents don't like the bad behavior that the kids from those series teach their children, and I see that in THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND. Gia lies a lot: To her family, to her friends, to herself. She's so focused on appearance that she's willing to destroy everything she's worked so hard for in order to appear put-together and save face. She's also dating a MUCH older  boy who is in college, even though her parents don't approve. Her friends don't believe he exists. When he dumps her on prom night, she grabs the first boy she sees and the lying game begins, and then spirals out of control, as lies often do. Gia doesn't want her friends to see her as a liar, but she becomes a liar to protect herself from the lies being told about her. She becomes exactly who she hates. I just couldn't fall in love with her.

Gia's family also isn't as multi-dimensional as I've come to expect from a Kasie West novel. The parents felt very cookie-cutter. There was an interesting spin in the relationship dynamics with her brother, however (And, man, if I had a brother like that, I would want to smack him!!). I liked the way West focused on social media and how wide-spread it is in today's world. So many of us need validation from our friends and family, and we lose touch with reality as we pay homage to the glowing screen before us. I really liked the way this facet was included in the novel. For as much as I was unimpressed with Gia's parental units compared to prior West novels, I must say that I enjoyed Fill-In-Bradley's family. Every time his mother and sister were on the page, the writing shined and all of the reasons I love West peeked out. Those chapters were a huge highlight for me!

That said, Gia definitely does have an about-face in THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND. She learns a lot of lessons the hard way and grows into a deeper person. I do like the way West chronicled her journey. Not everyone is initially on the right path in life. Not everyone has the right attitude or the right friends or feels comfortable in her own skin, especially as a teenager. We all have to evolve as we begin growing up and having those rose-tinted glasses we grew up with torn away from us. West captures this insecurity so well, and adds layers to a character that I initially brushed off as vain and shallow. So many teens go through these friendship issues, and they will be able to relate to Gia so much more than I currently can. I think many of them will embrace her and this book, even though I couldn't. I still don't want to be Gia's bestie, but I care more for her now than I did at the book's start, and that's the power of a strong writer!

In the end, my expectations for this book were just too high! I'll definitely still be keeping an eye out for Kasie West and checking out her new books. If you're looking for a light, easy, fast-reading summer romance (Especially one with the classic cliche where two people go on a fake date only to fall for real later on), you may really like THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND!! I think a lot of people will like this book. It just wasn't for me, and that's okay!

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I'm not a huge fan of pink, but I LOVE when that shade of pink is mixed together into a design with white. I love that color combo. The title is so appealing to me because of this combo!

I also like the way the word FILL-IN looks like it was added with highlighter or something. Very fun! (Plus, the words look transparent, like the literally need to be filled in. Ahhh!!

It's also nice to see the way you can't see either model's face, creating the illusion that they could be anyone--fill in the blanks! (Outfit/accessory wise, that girl definitely looks as put together as Gia would, so thumbs up there!)

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Kasie West
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Received: For Review

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.