The Fill-In Boyfriend
Author: Kasie West
Release: May 5th 2015
Genre: Contemporary, YA
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.
I am so completely in shock. Stunned into utter silence. Kasie West has fucking done it. She has achieved what no other author could ever achieve, and what I thought was thoroughly impossible: Me, absolutely LOVING a contemporary novel and giving it a full 5 out of 5 stars. A contemporary novel. Guys, this has never happened before. This completely throws off the whole order of things! I don't usually like contemporary novels, much less love them. What is happening?!
This novel is so full of raw, real, live emotions and it is almost unbearable. I can tell you that I actually cried while reading this, because the tension was so high strung and you felt everything as if you were, in fact, Gia herself. And that scene where I cried wasn't even anything particularly tragic or devastating, like a character death or something. No, it was something perfectly ordinary, something that probably happens to all of us. A break-up scene, more or less. And I ... cried. Even though I rarely ever cry during novels.
And I'll say it again, I cried because this novel is so vivid and alive and will burrow into your brain and that's why the emotions felt so real.
The characters, man. They were so absolutely amazing. Especially the protagonist, Gia. She has the huge, major, epic character development that you rarely see a character actively go through during just a single novel, but it is truly astounding to witness and see and experience it with Gia how much she's changing. And then to stand there at the end and simply be amazed by how far she's come since the very beginning of the novel, where she seemed like she was indeed a shallow, selfish, spoiled, mean little girl that cared more about what her friends and followers might think than about what she might think. At the end, she is independent, self-assured and confident about herself, more open and kind and gentle.
This book was all about being a better person, or at least just trying to be a better person. And it was a valuable lesson to learn, and West makes this point so beautifully.
The other characters were amazing as well, even the unlikable ones, like Jules. Her need for vindication and vengeance doesn't really make much sense at first, but with just a little bit of character back story, it suddenly all at least has a reason. What she does is still obviously nowhere near right — but understandable, in a way. Even Bradley, who's supposed to be the shitty ex that just left her in the prom parking lot without a ride, wasn't made out to be exactly that. He's joking with Gia when he leaves and they seem to stay on relative good terms after the break-up, which you rarely ever see in YA literature. Either one party is completely heart broken and sort of pining, or there's some kind of hate and dislike going on between them.
Hayden, the male lead, was probably the real surprise here, I guess. And I attribute that to West's perfect writing where he's concerned. He's so conflicted and always tries to do right by everyone, however, in doing that, he'll always be loyal to a fault and not see the bigger picture, instead choosing to blindly trust those he's loyal to, which is ultimately his biggest flaw and Gia gets to feel that, too. And I really loved this about him. That he can still think rationally, in a way, even if it's the wrong kind of rationally. I don't know, man, but I really, really loved Hayden as well.
Lastly, the romance. It was such a beautiful slow-burn, and because as I already said, the emotions were so raw and real, the romance was very satisfying as well. Even I got the tingly feels and blushed sometimes during the book. They move slowly, they get to know each other well and it's literally one of the last chapters in the book where they finally have that long-awaited kiss. I loved every single thing about Hayden and Gia's relationship.
But what I probably even loved as much has to be Bec and Gia's friendship. They obviously seem, and were meant to seem, as such an odd pair, but they simply work so well and their dynamics are really fun and good for both of them. It's such a sincere, genuine and nice friendship they have, I'm actually so happy they found each other through Hayden.
In conclusion, I cannot tell you how much I utterly, totally, absolutely adore and love this novel. It's my new favorite contemporary, unsurprisingly, and now one of my all-time favorite books ever, too. It's just so full of unexpected depth. It's profound, intense, heart- and gut-wrenching and it just keeps you on a leash. Literally, I finished this in one sitting. Well, almost. I was so mad at my mom for interrupting me while reading this to call me down for dinner, especially because it was the bit where we finally found out Hayden's real name. Ugh! But other than that one interruption, I was so glued to the pages and finished it in one day. And now I am seriously in mourning for it. I kinda want more, even though I know the story is over and there's not really much more to tell. Still, when after the last page I just swiped to the next and immediately began reading the Acknowledgements, I stopped short. I was waiting for another chapter, and I didn't get one.
But anyway, read this. It's the most amazing contemporary ever.
PS: I'm calling it now. Companion novel about Bec and Nate?