Blurb from Goodreads:
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.
One thing is clear—this book’s main ingredients are pretty clichéd. I’d bet you all have read something similar to this before. I can’t say the plot was very creative. There were some holes in it. The circumstances that our characters are in aren’t really something I haven’t seen somewhere else either. Kasie West’s writing is impeccable though. And that is what hooked me in. It works its own magic, giving thousands of tiny teeth and hooks to these tropes. So when you’re reading, you don’t think much about the predictable premise, and instead, it makes you focus on how adorable and fun and sweet and cute the story is.
Behind all the clichés there’s a lot more depth that I wasn’t expecting from this book. It all came as a nice surprise to me. More than just romance, it also takes on common teenage issues, unhealthy friendships, and family relationships. It’s about knowing who you are, learning the effects of telling lies. It shows the significance of friendship and the influence of friends, and it presents a picture of how social media can impact on a person’s life. West deals with all that without sounding preachy and instead brought it in a fun and relatable way.
“How is self worth measured today? By the amount of likes a post get, by how many friends we collect, by how many retweets we accumulate? Do we even know that we really think until we post our thoughts online and let others tell us if they are worthy?”
The characters are not the most complex—they aren’t even very striking—but they’re entertaining and they’re capable of so much growth. And grow they did! Especially our main character, Gia Montgomery. Gia wasn’t very likable when we were first introduced to her. She was selfish, concerned only of her reputation. She was controlling, treating people like pawns that she could move and command solely for her benefit. As we go deeper into Gia’s life we see the kind of friends she has, we see the odd relationship she has with her family, and we slowly see the reasons for her behavior.
Gia’s character development is amazing. She made mistakes, she owns up to it, she learns, and she grows as a person. She transformed from someone willing to tell lie after lie to get her friends to trust her, into someone who sees more important things than her friends’ approval.
“We rarely find a depth by looking inside of ourselves for it. Depth is found in what we can learn from the people and things around us. Everyone, everything, has a story, Gia. When you learn those stories, you learn experiences that fill you up, that expand your understanding. You add layers to your soul.”
Fill-in Bradley—the random guy Gia convinced to pose as her date at the prom—is the summary of everything nice and adorable. Gia fought tooth and nail for his real name so I’m not dropping it here. Okay, I’m exaggerating. He was not painted perfectly but I still find him too good to be true. Fill-in Bradley is somewhat flawed. His biggest flaw is being loyal to a fault which is easy to forgive, really, because Gia’s transformation is mostly thanks to him. Bit by bit, she becomes a better, more understanding person every time she’s with him.
Honestly, the situation that brought Gia and fill-in Bradley together the first time was so unrealistic. I don’t think a guy would just agree to be some stranger’s date not even five minutes after they met, and would bother to go home and change into some prom-worthy outfit for her just because she told him to. Unless he’s under compulsion. This isn’t a big problem for me though, seeing how naturally the chemistry comes between Gia and fill-in Bradley afterwards. I just wanted my contemporary romance closer to reality as possible.
“Chin up. There are other fish in the sea. It’s a big ocean. Sometimes we need to catch and release a few before we find the keeper.”
And speaking of unrealistic, does people like Jules really exist in the real world? I haven’t met one like her in my entire existence, so thank God! She’s mean, she’s spiteful, malicious. She doesn’t even bother to hide it, and yet nobody noticed that she’s a bitch! Gia’s two other best friends are exhausting to read about. They’ve been friends for years, shared secrets for years, got each other’s backs for years. And now they’re throwing it all away because Gia lied. Now, aren’t these girls overreacting? If having best friends means constantly proving to someone that I’m telling the truth because I don’t think they trust me enough, please, leave me alone. I’m happy with my books. Thankfully there’s fill-in Bradley’s younger sister, Bec, who makes up for Jules’, Laney’s, and Claire’s shortcomings in the friendship department. The girl is heaven sent.
“Tomorrow we are all going to be better people.”
The ending felt a bit rushed to me because there were things that seemed unresolved. But looking back, I think, it’s a realistic ending. That’s how some things in life happens—not everyone can forgive easily, bridges burned, new windows opens, and life goes on.
The Fill-In Boyfriend may not be perfect but it was a fun and perfect escape. A lot of tropes were afloat. But this is the kind of book that refuses to be put down for later, that will put a huge smile on your face. It is the kind of book that you’ll probably finish in one sitting despite its many flaws. I did. This is only my second Kasie West book. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, P. S. I Like You, although that too had some obvious clichés. Maybe that’s the thing with West’s books—clichéd but well-written.