Review: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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 on September 30, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
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three-stars

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.

You want the fluff? I got the fluff right here. (You should know that I’m saying this to you in a mobster accent. Why? I don’t know. It just seemed appropriate.) The Fine Art of Pretending isn’t the best fluff out there. It’s not a perfect book, or even close to it. BUT what it does have is a cute ship and sufficient flaily JUST KISS ALREADY moments to keep me thoroughly invested. For a number of years, I didn’t fully appreciate the value of books like this one, but sometime you just need the fluff and The Fine Art of Pretending will successfully scratch that itch.

As the title implies, The Fine Art of Pretending falls into the fake dating trope. Now, obviously, this trope isn’t the most realistic of things. I mean, it’s probably happened, but not to the degree it does in fiction. I don’t care about that, however. Not one iota. I love this trope. So much. There’s just something about two people, generally who have plans to hook up with other people, pretending they’re into one another and having to kiss and being blindsided by passion. Actually, I think that’s what unites all of my favorite romance tropes. I like when the characters didn’t see it coming. I like that moment where suddenly they’re looking at this person who was just a friend or a convenience or an enemy and suddenly like UM DAMN WERE YOU HOT THIS WHOLE TIME? So yeah, I was predisposed to like this ship.

Aside from that, though, I think Aly and Brandon are a good ship. I won’t go down with this ship, but I definitely got the swoony butterflies sometimes. Rachel Harris is good at writing that sexual tension. I could not read this book fast enough. Like, even though I obviously know exactly how the book will end, I HAD to get there ASAP and see for myself. Let’s just say that I will forever be a fan of that Truth or Dare scene. *fans self*

For most of the book, I was of two minds about Aly’s makeover. Brandon wasn’t interested until she started dressing in more form-fitting clothing. However, I think that was handled pretty well in the end and the book didn’t end up saying one way of dressing was better than another. It’s more about being comfortable with yourself however you like to be in the end, which is really the best message to be sending to readers. I like that the mission ends up being about more than just boys and Homecoming in the end, too, but about Aly improving herself for herself.

It was a bit frustrating how long it took Aly and Brandon to notice they were into each other. I mean, denial is a thing and it is real, but holy crap, kids. Brandon’s determined never to fall in love because his dad died and left his mom alone. Aly’s convinced she can make herself fall for the most popular heartbreaker in school, Justin. Speaking of, his character was interesting and frankly didn’t ring the most true for me. I really hoped that View Spoiler »

Aside from Brandon and Aly’s relationship, much of the book didn’t really click for me. Thankfully, it’s a romance and they’re a lot of the book. The writing isn’t very strong. This showed a lot in the interactions with friends. They felt really stilted and unnatural. Lengths were made to differentiate Gabi from Kara and Carlos from Justin from Drew, but really they’re all defined by one or two characteristics and that’s literally all she wrote. They’re around to move the plot along, but the banter between friends doesn’t make it.

My biggest concern is the element where Brandon and his friends went through and labeled girls as either Commitments or Casuals. Now, I agree that some people are more into long term relationships and others more into short term. That, in and of itself, is completely fine. The boys were trying to spare the feelings of others by making the list even, so their…hearts…were in the right place, I guess. What bothers me is that Brandon puts a value judgment on this:

She was supposed to see that her lack of exes wasn’t a bad thing. It boils down to respect. Some guys know she deserves a lot more than they are willing to give.

You can fuck off right now, Brandon. Only Commitments are respected by guys? Commitments deserve what little they get? Are you fucking kidding me with this? There’s a general sense throughout the book that Aly is a much better person than Lauren, the token Casual. Kara’s also shelved as a Casual, but she has one boyfriend throughout the whole book. It’s troubling that the one Casual female who dates around slut-shames others and definitely is viewed as undeserving of love. She’s the classic bitchy popular girl and mean to everyone. By the end, she gets a bit better, but that judgment of her choices by Brandon and Aly doesn’t really go away. The three of them just learn to be civil.

The Fine Art of Pretending wasn’t outstanding, but it did a fine job of getting my shippy feels going, which was really all that I needed.

Favorite Quote:

“I’m sorry, I think your agenda’s confused. Last night was self-loathing. Today is pity. And empathy, which seems to be in short supply everywhere I go.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif she's all that kiss

3 responses to “Review: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris”

  1. I agree with pretty much everything you said. I absolutely love the fluffy, lighter books. But they are not all amazing. I found The Fine Art of Pretending to be mediocre. I think there is better fluff out there.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Review: It’s In His Kiss by Jill ShalvisMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yeah, I was pretty into the ship, but the rest of it left something to be desired. It did get the job done and keep me entertained, but the writing needed a lot of work. Plus, I’m still side-eyeing some of that concept.

  2. Soma Rostam says:

    Yes, exactly. Sometimes you just need a fluffy book. And this sounds to be just it
    GREAT review, as always!
    Soma Rostam recently posted…ARC Review: A Little Something Different by Sandy HallMy Profile

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