Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: The Fine Art of Pretending (Harris)

AUTHOR: Rachel Harris
SERIES: Fine Art of Pretending, book 1
PUBLISHER: Spencer Hill Contemporary
PUBLICATION DATE: Sept. 30, 2014
ISBN: 9781939392282
PAGES: 256
SOURCE: NetGalley
GENRE: Contemporary romance
GIVE IT TO: upper HS
SUMMARY: In an effort to "get noticed" in her senior year, tomboy Aly makes over her wardrobe and asks her best friend Brandon to pretend-date her for a few weeks.

IF THIS BOOK WERE A MUSICAL GENRE, IT WOULD BE: Pop. It's predictable with a common storyline, but it's also fun and will be a popular choice for YA romance fans.

REVIEW: I have read and loved other books by Rachel Harris, so I didn't even bother to read the description when I requested this book from NetGalley. Rachel Harris is a master at writing swoon-worthy kissing scenes and creating romantic chemistry between her characters. While I certainly enjoyed Pretending, I have to say that there is nothing especially new or groundbreaking in its storyline. Boy-and-girl-besties fall for each other and deny it as long as possible because they don't want to destroy their friendship...been there, done that.

Characters are likeable, but again, nothing special. Aly's "Operation Sex Appeal" makeover is immature and silly. I know that she is a high school senior and I am pushing 40, but even as a teen myself, I would have rolled my eyes at the makeover. And I really don't like the broader implication that smart, athletic girls can only get noticed when they are wearing heavy makeup and a bikini top. Aly gets the attention she craves ONLY when she shakes out the ponytail and puts on some killer heels. Even best friend/high school hottie Brandon doesn't really notice her until he starts to see some skin.

So overall, I am mixed on this one. Since I read the whole thing in one sitting, I would say pacing was good. While Brandon and Aly weren't my favorites, I really identified with Gabi and Carlos and their keep-it-real attitudes. I love that there are no absent families here. Brandon and Aly are both actively involved in their 12-year old sisters' lives and have supportive, loving parents. The middle school sleepover scene was especially cute--I would have loved to have a cool big sister like Aly.

But there is also a lot of cliche and stereotyping here. The initial makeover scene, the slutty mean girl, the tomboy-gets-noticed storyline, the best-friends-falling-for-each-other-then-denying-it meme...I've seen this movie and read this book many, many times before.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Cute, fun, silly, and sooo overdone. There is nothing terribly original here, but teen readers (who probably haven't seen all the 80s/90s teen makeover movies I've seen) will very likely enjoy The Fine Art of Pretending.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. I have a HS library now--I would not get it for MS due to mature sexual content and innuendo.

READALIKES: My Super-Sweet Sixteenth Century (Harris); Just Like the Movies (Fiore); anything by Jennifer E. Smith

RATING BREAKDOWN:
  • Overall: 3/5--Some positives, some negatives
  • Creativity: 2/5--not much originality here
  • Characters: 3/5--slight bonus for Gabi and Carlos
  • Engrossing: 4/5--I did enjoy reading it!
  • Writing: 3/5--I really do like Rachel Harris's writing style.
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5--Teens who love romance will love this book.
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5--Neither too short or too long.

CONTENT:
  • Language: high--includes multiple F-bombs, dick, sh**, ass
  • Sexuality: medium--French kissing, references to Aly's breasts, references to male erection, slut-shaming, multiple references to casual teen sex, discussion of virginity
  • Violence: mild--two incidents of males fighting
  • Drugs/Alcohol: medium--references to drunkenness; teens drink at a party

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