I’ve become a fan of Kasie West ever since I’ve read The Distance Between Us. Her works are something that I always look forward to. Hence, after finding out that she’ll be releasing a new book, I anticipated its release date and bought a copy from The Book Depository.
Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:
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.
We’ve read books told from the point of view of an outcast, an average student, or someone “who doesn’t belong” can see past the high school cliques and make a difference. Yes, we’ve also seen (or read) Mean Girls and The DUFF, and other books or movies that portray the life of a high school student. This book also tells such story, but it now centers on a character that is part of a popular group who eventually challenges the norm and herself.
Forming cliques in school is inevitable and it doesn’t limit itself to one country. I guess wherever school one goes to, there’s always that. And most often than not, we associate certain personalities per clique. Focusing on the popular group, there are these preconceived notions about them – bitchy, vain, snobby, always in the “in” – and some hope to belong in that group. In The Fill-In Boyfriend, Kasie West opens the door of the popular group to the readers and lets them get a closer look and experience what it’s like to be part of the popular crowd.
The beginning of the story already introduces us to Gia, the heroine, who ends up with no date as her boyfriend, Bradley, breaks up with her on prom night. Conscious of what her peers might say and think, she takes on a random guy – the only guy – in the parking lot to act as her boyfriend. That’s where Fill-In Bradley (FIB) comes into existence. I must say, their role playing is quite good and convincing. FIB’s personality adds to his mysteriousness that would make him unforgettable. He keeps entering into Gia’s mind which forces Gia to look for him. And as she slowly spends more of her time with FIB, her views on certain things start to change.
I like how Kasie West portrays Gia as a seemingly-perfect student and daughter, but once we get to know her, everything she does is merely the tip of an iceberg. Told from Gia’s point of view, the book describes how the walls start to break and begins to reveal more of Gia’s true feelings. We’ve seen her previous self who only focuses on superficial characteristics and social media to someone who learns to empathize and gain self-esteem. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Gia proves me wrong. She’s not this spoiled, bitchy girl who wants to be the alpha of the group. From the beginning, I don’t hate her. In fact, the more I learn about her, the more I want to be her friend.
As for FIB, well, I love how he’s a sport as he agrees to pretend to be Gia’s boyfriend and play along without any hint of nervousness. His confidence and charisma make him attractive. A plus point added for him also since he shows to be a gentleman. His growing friendship with Gia convinces me more to root for them. They’re just perfect together! One way or another, they have helped each other grow and become better persons. And yes, I won’t reveal his name because just like in the book, it takes a while for Kasie West to reveal it. It adds to the mystery of his character, but in the end, readers will eventually know him better and fall in love with him as well.
Apart from the dynamic characterization of the hero and heroine, the minor characters have also played a significant role in the story. FIB’s sister is one unique, quirky character who will definitely add flavor to a friendship. She shows her true self more than Gia’s friends. Jules, on the other hand, always gets on my nerve. She pisses me off. I don’t like her attitude and the way she approaches things. She’s the very definition of a mean girl. Furthermore, despite Claire being the middleman of Gia and Jules, as well as being Gia’s best friend, I see her personality quite off. In the end, though, I can still sense some hope for her.
Overall, The Fill-In Boyfriend is a satisfying read. The book is not just about the cute, love story between FIB and Gia, but it also tackles issues on family, friendship, peers, and self-confidence/esteem. I may not have completely connected with Gia, but Kasie West’s narration helps me understand and empathize her better. Kasie West surely delivers her story well. She manages to let readers become part of her story as mixtures of emotions fill me throughout my reading of this book. I become engaged in everything that happens and I can’t help but wish to interact with the characters.
The Fill-In Boyfriend is definitely one of the books one couldn’t miss out on. This book is another successful masterpiece of Kasie West. It may not be my favorite work of hers, but The Fill-In Boyfriend catches my attention in such a way that I find myself engrossed in it. And perhaps at the end of this book, readers may have a changed view about cliques. The book teaches a lot and while it does that, it also brings enjoyment and swoon-worthy scenes to the readers they surely will not regret. This won’t be my last book to read by Kasie West. I look forward to more.