Paperback: 306 pages
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press (30 Sep 2014)
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.
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I am the biggest sucker for being drawn in by cover designs, and The Fine Art Of Pretending (TFAOP for shorthand) was no exception. I adore the cover, it’s fun, flirty and cute and of course with a quirky title like that, it was only a matter of time before I was sucked in.
TFAOP follows your typical cliche contemporary style - girl on a mission of self discovery, a boy as a target, and the unintended target the girl didn’t expect. But when you’re in the mood for a fun, cute contemporary read - it fills the bill perfectly, and just because you can guess what happens, it doesn’t lessen how much you enjoy the ride.
The author starts each chapter with a weekly countdown to the Homecoming, something I really like, when books title each chapter in a fun way. The countdown also highlights our main character, Aly’s, beginning of Operation Sex Appeal - her mission to become something more than just “that friend”. Tired of being seen through the lens of just one of those girls you’re friends with, but never date, Aly starts out to change all that, starting with her clothes, right down to her arm candy as she swaps her best friend (enter our swoony, YA male lead, Brandon) for boyfriend.
I felt like the friendship between Aly and Brandon was great - it was genuine and built on years of knowing and being there for each other. Harris’ writing was very easy to read and I managed to get through the book in a handful of hours.
However what I took issue with in the book, and by the looks of other reviews, I am not alone in this - but the whole idea of transforming from who she was to who she became, simply to go from being a “commitment” worthy girl, to a “casual” hook up girl. I’m all for girls trying out new things, stepping out of their comfort zones, finding ways to make themselves feel sexier and more confident - yet doing all this to garner the attention of boys, changing yourself so that boys are attracted to you - is not something I can get on board with, even if it is a fiction book. I can understand what the author was intending to do here, in a sense she wanted Aly to go through this and at the end, she comes to realise that she is beautiful, confident, and sexy, without having to dress scantily, yet the whole journey to get there, for me at least, wasn’t a fun one. I also found it backwards and wrong to give out the message that our female lead, didn’t want to be a girl who guys saw as commitment worthy, but actually wanted to be the casual ones that guys date and break up with. Baffling, no?
Also another thing I didn’t approve of, is how Aly set her sights on wanting to get the attention of the schools hottie, Justin, who also happens to be Brandon’s friend. I know a lot of readers often have issues with when a guy uses a girl to get another girl, or toys with the girls feelings simply for the image it creates - which is why I don’t like how Aly uses Justin, simply to seal her image as one of the “casuals” - like dating someone popular is a rite of passage for her. Though in some sense I can understand why the author chose to do this as well as the change in image for Aly, the ideals behind it were to bring Aly to her own realisations about who she is and her feelings - yet the execution wasn’t the greatest and instead came off giving the wrong message.
I hope this doesn’t come across as author bashing, and I don’t believe in leaving bashful reviews when I personally don’t like something, but in such a case, the issue I had with the content is one that led me to drop down the rating from 5 stars to 3.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading about Aly and Brandon’s friendship and it’s always great when friends get together and it works out. I enjoyed seeing both Brandon and Aly come to the discovery that in the end, they were meant for each other - it may have taken a hell of a journey and makeover in the middle to find that out - but a happy ending was due nonetheless.