Enjoyable, G-rated, young adult romance
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: December 4, 2017
Publisher: Entangled: Crush
Pages: 182 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
When 16-year-old Cat Turner is dumped and publicly humiliated by a classmate named Bennet, who callously brags on social media that he was only dating her over the summer on a bet, she is desperate to save face. She implores her former neighbor, Alex Locke, who has been a close friend for the past four years, to be her fake boyfriend. She is convinced that this desperate ploy will prove to the kids at school, who are all laughing at her, and the editor of her school newspaper, who claims that Cat is too traumatized by Bennet to be an effective reporter, that she is unfazed by her ex’s spite.
Alex’s greatest desire is to earn an all-expenses-paid scholarship to a good university and leave behind the small town of Franklin, California forever. Though he is only 17, he has his own apartment above his main job at a garage, and he also works at a second job at a canning factory, all while keeping a high grade-point average. Cat is his only friend, other than his boss at the garage, Joe, and his 86-year-old grandmother, Birdie, who is currently living in a residential facility in Franklin. Alex has never dated, and he doesn’t actually have time to even pretend to date. But he cares about Cat, doesn’t like to see her suffer, and agrees to help her out.
Unfortunately for both of their plans, fake dating soon begins to seem all too real, and yet another big risk to each of their fragile hearts for potential, emotional abandonment.
This engaging YA romance novel is written in the dual point of view (POV) of Cat and Alex, which has been a standard convention for adult romance novels for the past 35 years. As a big fan of the romance genre, I personally particularly enjoy YA romances that follow this format, rather than first-person POV, because it allows readers to get to know both romantic protagonists equally well. This is particularly desirable with such a sympathetic romantic hero as Alex. He has led a very challenging life, but has risen above it with grace and dignity and become remarkably self-responsible.
Cat is also a strong, self-directed heroine. Her life has not been nearly as difficult as Alex’s, whose father is in jail, and whose mother and two sisters died in a car accident. But Cat’s father abandoned her mother and has never been in her life. The main mitigating factor for Cat is that her mother is terrific. She is a quirky artist who designs greeting cards and is very loving toward Cat. Alex’s good fortune is his loveable, cookie-baking grandmother, Birdie, and his compassionate, supportive boss, Joe. These three characters are all vividly drawn, and it is refreshing to see, for a change in a YA novel, adults who are decent, kind human beings rather than clueless or cruel.
Together, Cat and Alex have a compelling, mutual growth arc as they spend more time together than ever before while fake dating. It allows them to go to a much deeper level in their friendship and gradually, in a G-rated version of a “slow-burn” romance, begin to fall in love.
All in all, this lovely novel is a very entertaining blend of two classic romance tropes, the “redemption romance” and the “fake romance.” I highly recommend it.
I rate this novel as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Social Drama Plot: 4
Overall: 4.5 stars rounded to 5