ARC Book Review: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris

Posted August 18, 2014 by Debby in Reviews / 2 Comments

I received this book for free from Book Expo America in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Book Review: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel HarrisThe Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris
Series: The Fine Art of Pretending #1
Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary on September 30th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Book Expo America

According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player.

With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time.

But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.

4 Stars

The Fine Art of Pretending was one of the top books on my wishlist for BEA, because with that spectacular premise which contained so many of the things I absolutely love in a contemporary romance and that adorable cover, I knew it would be the right kind of fluffy for me. And I was not disappointed.

The Fine Art of Pretending was for me one of those books that just found me at exactly the right time. For all its entertainment value, this book does not carry a majorly significant meaningful message. But Aly struggles with something that I’ve had issues with in high school and even more recently: this idea of girls being classified as Casuals or Commitments. She’s a clear Commitment but tries to recreate her image into a Casual because that’s what guys want. That’s practically all they’re looking for. And Aly is just tired of being ignored and passed over. This is something I just so get. It was less so the case in high school for me (because those who were more “casual” tended to hide it at my school), but nowadays, in the midst of European college “party” culture, it’s something I do struggle with. Though I don’t judge others for the choices they make, I’m definitely a Commitment – and guys see that and write me off the very second they meet me. I sense that immediately, and every single time it stings like hell.

So obviously, in that sense, I immediately found a kindred spirit in Aly. I found her struggle very relatable, though others could say it’s pretty much a non-issue, and she didn’t have much to complain about. Constantly being alone and ignored is grating, and that made the themes and message of this novel stay with me for weeks afterwards. It’s what will have me picking this book up again and again – because I like that romantic reminder of the fact that you should be true to who you are and at some point you’ll meet someone who appreciates you for that. It just hit the right hopeless romantic notes for me, and that makes me want to hug it fiercely to my chest.

For others, though, Aly might appear quite young and naive. Akin to a Disney Channel movie, she goes through a makeover and makes poor choices to force herself to be something she’s not – and for some bizarre reason decides that she’ll have succeeded if Justin, a popular hottie and player, asks her to Homecoming. The reasoning is not the most sound, and you know from the start that it’s a terrible idea. Justin is kind of a douche anyway, so why would you want that? Though it’s entertaining, and certainly made me chuckle, it’s not a story you should think too long on, because in reality this challenge she sets for herself is very shallow.

But the romance is exactly the kind of fluffy, light entertainment I needed. Brandon and Aly were friends for years (yay, best friend romance!), but when Aly undergoes her transformation, she recruits him to pretend to be her “casual” boyfriend (yay, fake dating!). My two favorite tropes collided, so basically, I was having the time of my life. I was a tiny bit disappointed though that the romance never got that spicy physically. The fake dating trope obviously opens the door to all these PDA’s they could do to prove themselves to others while later realizing that they might actually have meant something – but that didn’t really work out that way in The Fine Art of Pretending. Their fake relationship was extremely tame, and they seemed to spend more time talking about it than proving it to others, so I didn’t feel the kind of fire I was expecting. It wasn’t like, say, Faking It – spicy and full of swoons, though I recognize that that’s New Adult.

Be that as it may, the relationship was clearly heartfelt and sweet, so I was enthralled by it anyway – it just won’t be one of my top ships of all time. Most of the development comes from their internal struggles with their feelings. In particular, I appreciated reading from Brandon’s point of view, because whereas Aly has had a crush on him in the past, he’s the one who has blindly been restraining himself into thinking she’s completely off limits. He was sweet and wonderful, but he also managed to show how deep the chemistry they had went, which put my heart a-flutter. There were some flails and squeals, make no mistake.

Summing Up:

This book really got to me in a way that I didn’t expect it would! The themes of this Casual vs. Commitment classification and the message to stay true to yourself really touched my heart – even if this isn’t the deepest book of all time. The romance was really sweet, and though I could have used some more spice, I was cheering for the couple anyway. I could totally see myself rereading this on a rainy day – it’s the perfect book to lift the spirits of a hopeless romantic.

GIF it to me straight!

Love-Actually

Recommended To:

Fans of On the Fence, The Art of Lainey, and other books with the best friend romance / fake dating tropes.

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