The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Published May 5th 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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.

The Fill-In Boyfriend and I did not get off to a good start together. I cringed my way through the first few pages. From the get-go, Gia came off as whiny and immature. Granted, the synopsis is pretty telling and I knew, or at least should have known, what I was getting myself into when I picked up the book. But the way the book opened – with Gia clinging to Bradley and whining for him to stay at least for prom! Her friends haven’t even seen him yet! – didn’t do the story any favors. Then Gia turns around and asks another guy to go in with her because her friend group would slaughter her if she showed up alone, and he’s hot and free and nice and willing. Yay? From there, the story did pick up (or maybe acclimation is a terrifying thing), and it was a super entertaining, but while I did read
The Fill-In Boyfriend cover to cover in one sitting, that annoyance I felt at the beginning, as well as the situational ridiculousness and Gia’s blatant immaturity and self-obsession always lingered close by.

The characters were all cookie-cutter paper-people in their happy little 2D worlds: Bradley, the asshole ex; Hayden, the perfect popular boy; Spencer the slimeball; Jules, the evil “friend”; Bec, the enemy-turned-unique-friend-accessory; Gia’s parents, the barely-there family figures present only to drive her places and spew the occasional word of wisdom. Every single character fitted into a stereotype and stayed there.

There isn’t much to say about Gia and Fake-Bradley’s relationship. Circumstances clearly wrought for the sake of plot aside, there’s nothing noteworthy, and it reads exactly as it was written in the synopsis. It’s disappointing because fake-dating is one of my favorite tropes ever and while I pick and critique a lot, I’m also a sucker for cheesy romance and drama, which is what generally encompasses the fake-dating trope. It’s pretty hard to get me to find the whole fake-dating thing unnecessary for the book and dislikeable, but Kasie West managed to do that. Ticked all the little boxes in a pretty row down the page. Overran it with one-dimensional characters and aggravating plot holes.

But the main thing that really bothered me was the situation with Jules. The entire plot happened because she was too scared of how Jules would react but could she not have told her other friends how she was feeling about Jules? Or attempted talked it out with Jules herself? Gia has the guts to tell a mutual acquaintance that he’s being an asshole and to slap him across the face, mock her fellow classmates appearances on a daily basis, and scoff at random strangers on the street, but she can’t tell a friend that the said friend is making her feel shitty? And I’m not too sure about the others, but Gia was super close to Claire, and Claire was the ideal supportive best friend throughout the great majority of the book. I know that sometimes, there are things you can say to relative strangers that you can’t to the people close to you, but at the very least, once she entangled herself in the Fake-Bradley hoax, why couldn’t she at least pull Claire aside and explain the situation?

And it just got worse. As the story’s wrapping up, the situation becomes something like this: Gia feels like Jules is out to get her, so after attempting to connect and sympathize with her for all of two times, Gia starts feeling like she’s being a good person but the world just hates her guts. Then Claire, who’s been nothing but patient and kind to the both of them, finds out that Gia’s been lying to her about something huge – so she does what any normal person would do and distances herself from Gia. She needs some space, she says. Some time to think. At first Gia’s upset and full of apology, but when Fake-Bradley-Hayden comes back around, suddenly the world is beautiful again and Claire’s all but forgotten, and she gives up on her whole friend group basically because who needs friends when you have a boyfriend?

I did like a lot of the dialogue-heavy scenes, and though ridiculous, the drama did make for an entertaining book. The Fill-In Boyfriend like one of those bad rom-coms: the storyline’s ridiculous and the main characters belong in elementary school, but for some reason, it’s still addicting and you still find yourself wanting to see it through to the end. But it’s the kind of movie you’d watch at a friend’s place, or online, and only ever once.

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