From #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt comes the addictive contemporary tale of a teen rock star in need of an image makeover and the teen girl hired to be his fake girlfriend.
Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.
Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?
I picked this book up for two reasons. The first reason was that I’ve already read something by this author/author duo and I ended up really loving it. If you haven’t heard of Erin Watt before, you probably don’t know that it’s not one, but TWO authors under this pseudonym, one of them being Elle Kennedy who wrote one of my favourite series, Off Campus. Their debut series, titled The Royals, is one that I definitely recommend and is essentially what made the decision in reading this book because of how much I enjoyed their writing. The second reason was that the entire premise of this book is fake dating. Did you hear me?? I said it’s about FAKE DATING. Even if these authors didn’t write this book or if I’d never heard of them I still would’ve read this book. I actually remember seeing this in my Goodreads newsletter a few months ago and I was just like “oh they have a new book, that’s cool!” Clearly I didn’t look at the synopsis that closely because the second time I saw this in my newsletter and ACTUALLY looked at the synopsis I went from 0-100 real quick. And as I predicted, Watt did not let me down with this book whatsoever. There were a lot of things I enjoyed about this, a couple things that disappointed me, but overall left me with a giddy smile on my face. Let’s get down to it!
- FAKE DATING TROPE. FAKE DATING TROPE. FAKE DATING TROPE!!!!!!!!!! Nothing, and I mean nothing on this earth is better than a good ol’ fake dating trope. Why is it good, you ask? Well, there’s the fact that 99% of the time the two people involved do not like each other one bit but the fake dating makes them fall for one another. There’s also the fact that when they’re out in public or with their friends they have to keep up the act and pretend they’re in love. That means there’s a lot of “oh god, what are they doing and why do I like it so much??” and “I know this is supposed to be fake but it feels so good and I want more” which creates so much wonderful yummy tension that you can’t contain yourself. In this story, the fake dating is used to make Oakley’s public image better which means that the fake relationship is around a bunch of other people and constantly under the scrutiny of cameras and the public eye. For me, personally, this is one of my favourite fake dating scenarios. Because there’s always this chance of “being caught” Oakley and Vaughn always have to pretend that they’re in love and since they’re always putting on a show, those fake feelings eventually become real, which brings us back to the questions and feelings I mentioned before. I feel like everything about this trope was perfectly executed and made me beyond happy.
- I feel like the authors got a bit more creative with their writing this time. What I mean is that because the story is based on a celebrity falling in love with a “normal” there’s a lot of focus on the celebrity status and the use and presence of social media and I feel like they incorporated that presence quite well. I really liked that a lot of chapters started with a Twitter conversation between some of Oakley’s fans and that kind of shows you, the reader, how the fan side of Twitter acts. Sure, it made the story a lot more modern and relatable in that way, but to me it kind of shows you what the celebrity has to deal with on a daily basis from their fans. Their constantly flooded with weird, and sometimes explicit, comments and Tweets from fans that they never asked for plus there are the “fan Twitters” who think they know everything about said celebrity and speculate on behalf of them. The thing that I thought was really well done was the little commentary on how Oakley’s fans feel entitled to him and therefore think it’s ok to send rude Tweets to Vaughn. That’s something we absolutely do not realize; we don’t own the celebrity, they do not owe us anything, they are free to live their own lives. Lord knows that my 16-year-old self didn’t understand this and was beyond pissed when my favourite boyband member got a girlfriend but you grow up and you realize that this celebrity will never be with you so why not be happy for them? I’m glad this was touched upon and I feel like the authors captured this voice of Twitter and fandom culture really well.
- In addition to my previous point, the thing that struck me the most about this book was just the overall social commentary of being a celebrity. I think we often forget that celebrities are still real people with actual feelings but because of their status people see them more as someone to take advantage of. Oakley rarely knows who he can trust or who his friends are because they all seem to want something from him or his fans think they can freely grab and touch him because he’s famous. They care more about the name and status rather than the actual person and I think that’s something we need to start realizing more. And there are so many things that we don’t see happening behind the scenes in Hollywood and if anything, this book opened my eyes even further. Behind every celebrity is a team of people trying to make them look better in the public eye, constantly creating good PR opportunities so we think that the celebrity in question is a good and genuine person. We sometimes don’t realize that their PR team is creating these stories about them in the media and have spent weeks or months perfecting them. We don’t realize that at the end of the day, the celebrity has little to no say or control of their life anymore. Oakley, for example, doesn’t have control of any of his social medias mainly because he doesn’t understand it nor does he want to be around it so his PR team Tweets on behalf of him, answering his fans. They don’t understand how this makes his fans feel. The fans think that they’re truly talking to their idol but it turns out they’re talking to someone else? It kind of makes you wonder who really runs a celebrity’s Twitter nowadays; sometimes you can tell it’s PR but sometimes you can’t and that was Vaughn’s biggest struggle when her feelings were becoming real. I think, to me at least, it just makes you question how much really goes on behind the scenes, what you can and can’t believe at face value, and if it’s all really worth it.
- I didn’t really like the fact that Vaughn a) had a boyfriend at the beginning of all this and b) was kind of allowed to keep said boyfriend. Basically I didn’t like the boyfriend and yeah he was good for drama and plot and development, blah blah blah, but in the grande scheme of it all it wasn’t fair to Vaughn’s heart.
- I feel like the plot and setting up the fake dating happened a bit too fast for my liking. I would’ve liked a bit more of context and background on both Oakley and Vaughn before it all got set up. To me, it just felt a little to perfect and easy but it’s also a fictional book, so of course it’s gonna be perfect.
- This isn’t actually a bad point, but honestly this was a little tame for an Erin Watt book. I think Goodreads misled me by saying it was both YA and NA when it should’ve picked a side. Because of that, I was expecting a bit more…..heat, I guess. It’s not a fault on the authors, it’s more a Goodreads fault.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- Not only does this complete your teenage fantasy of getting to date your favourite celebrity, but it has a great social commentary on the perception of a celebrity and great fake dating between wonderful characters that will squish your heart. If you’re not smiling like crazy at the end then there’s something wrong with you.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: When It’s Real
Author: Erin Watt
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
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