Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

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

Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie WestThe Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Published by HarperTeen on May 5, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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five-stars

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.

Ever since my first Kasie West book, I’ve been hooked. West is one of those authors upon whom I can truly rely to write a book that will give me the shippy feels and make me smile. I’ve talked before about the art of fluffy books, and Kasie West is one of the most talented authors working in this genre right now. Her books have been nigh perfect fluff. With The Fill-In Boyfriend, West finally hit all the right notes, writing what, for me, is a perfect fluffy contemporary novel full of friendship, family, and romance feels.

To start with, I’m a huge fan of the fake relationship trope. I just love watching two characters who either don’t like or don’t know each other have to navigate these waters. Fake relationships are fun because they completely change up ordinary romance dynamics. The physical side of the relationship often comes first, with the importance of casual touches. They also get to know one another in a deeper way, despite the fact that the relationship is on the surface.

The downside of the fake relationship trope is that it can be very hard to make realistic. A lot of the time, it tips a novel over from realistic to the sort of absurd circumstances only to be found in a CW drama. Kasie West really manages to make the fake relationship in The Fill-In Boyfriend convincing. In both cases, it’s clear why the characters made that rash decision, and there is a logic to their actions, even if it was an impulsive choice.

gif nina dobrev omg

Gia panics when her college junior boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her outside Prom. She needed him to go in so that she could prove to her friends that she really did have a hot, older boyfriend and that she hadn’t made him up, like Jules has been insinuating. Terrified that her friends won’t believe her if she shows up without Bradley, Gia spots a boy waiting in a car in the parking lot and convinces him to be Bradley.

Where West really sells the believability of this is in Gia’s character development. At first, Gia’s this popular girl, up for prom court, who, while not a bully, will stand by and laugh at mean comments. Gia’s also very insecure, afraid that Jules will steal her friends Laney and Claire from her, as Jules has obviously been plotting to do. It’s easy to peg Gia as shallow. The thing is that there’s a lot more to Gia, though that first assessment wouldn’t be wrong for Gia at the start of the book. Gia lives for validation through Twitter likes and the parties she gets invited to. The biggest problem in her life is the passive aggressive war she’s fighting with Jules over Claire and Laney.

gif i'm feeling things tvd

Everything really comes together as Gia’s family dynamics come to the forefront. In The Fill-In Boyfriend, West takes on the “perfect” family. Gia, her brother, and her parents are all put together, successful people. Gia herself has a scholarship to UCLA and is president of the student council. The Montgomerys never fight. On the surface, they’re perfect. The thing is that they are just surface. The reason that Gia, in her panic, resorted to putting on a ridiculous show for her friends with a fill-in Bradley, is that she’d been taught all her life how important it was to look perfect.

Throughout the book, one of the biggest lessons that Gia has to learn is to be honest about her feelings. She’s very used to bottling everything up, not confessing to her best friends or her family. Gia never really knew this wasn’t how things were supposed to be and only by having her life into chaos does she figure out just how messed up it was. For all of her life, no matter how she felt inside, she put on a show of perfection, telling everyone she was fine, but over the course of the novel she learns to open up. Fill-in Bradley’s family ends up being a beautiful catalyst to the Montgomery’s; they’re very different and bicker a lot, but clearly love one another for who they are and not who they wish they were.

gif i'm fine

Gia, however, isn’t the only one who grows throughout the course of The Fill-In Boyfriend. What I love about Kasie West’s novels isn’t just how amazing the romances are, though they are ridiculously good, but that they also focus in on the secondary characters. It’s hard enough for writers to create engaging main characters, and it takes talent to build out the secondary characters too. I actually know what Gia’s senior friends are doing the following year; most are going to UCLA, but one’s going to community college and another is planning to start somewhere cheap and then maybe transfer to UCLA for financial reasons. It’s so rare to have any idea what the characters might actually do after high school and I love knowing these details. At the end of each West novel, I’m wishing for a whole bunch of companions for each secondary character because I’m so curious about their stories too.

After prom, Gia ends up becoming friends with fill-in Bradley through his sister, Bec, who’s not initially a fan of Gia’s. Bec actually is the largest catalyst for Gia’s change, essentially holding up a mirror and helping Gia realize how flawed she is, with some help from Gia’s brother Drew. Bec shares a problem with Gia, a desire to hold people at arm’s length and, in watching Gia grow, Bec begins to really make changes herself.

gif thumbs up nina dobrev

West doesn’t get into the plot with Claire, Laney, and Jules quite as much. Gia does seem to be growing apart from them, and, when the book ends, it’s unclear whether they’ll make up and become close again or not. Normally, this might feel like a dropped plot thread to me, but I thought it worked for two reasons. 1) Jules gets some development, and it’s very clear that she has her own issues that are manifesting in her behavior, so you end up hoping that she, like Gia, will end up growing out of this. 2) By the end, Gia’s a very different person than she was, and she’s also realized that her friends never knew her all that well because she didn’t allow them to. That’s not the kind of friendship breach that can be healed quickly.

gif you turned your back on me tvd

Finally, there’s the romance. Both Gia and fill-in Bradley have been fairly recently dumped (very in Gia’s case obviously), but West manages to pull off their romance without it feeling like a rebound. Partly, this is because Gia’s relationship, like all of her others, was all surface. Fill-in Bradley (whose name is revealed in a completely adorable scene) and Gia also have amazing chemistry. I declare Kasie West the Queen of Banter, because they are fantabulous at it. Better yet, since it’s a fake relationship book, they have cute moments through pretty much the whole book. They also both have to work through trust issues, which I love.

gif tvd cheek kiss

In case it wasn’t obvious, I LOVED this book. I almost literally could not put it down, and ended up staying up reading until one on a work night. Oops. The Fill-In Boyfriend is worth staying up for, though.

Favorite Quote:

“We rarely find depth by looking inside of ourselves for it. Depth is found in what we can learn from the people and things around us. Everyone, everything, has a story, Gia. When you learn those stories, you learn experiences that fill you up, that expand your understanding. You add layers to your soul.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif nina dobrev dancing
I swear this book is not melodramatic but I was feeling Nina Dobrev for my gifs.

9 responses to “Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West”

  1. Oh my gosh, I’m just so excited to read this. SO glad to hear that you loved this!
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…My Favorite Side Characters in Historical RomanceMy Profile

  2. Meg says:

    Actually human incarnation of the platonic ideal version of adorable Nina Dobrev has totally put me in the right frame of mind for this book. Yes please, all the Kasie West, I will take it.
    Meg recently posted…Buzz Worthy News The Fluffening April 27, 2015My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I think I searched for “I’m fine” gifs because that’s really a thing in this book and was like “Nina’s so pretty, so let’s make her the thing.” Then I just cast the other girl as Caroline because frenemies. Anyway, it’s awesome and Meg should read it.

  3. Oh my god I want to read this RIGHT NOW, RIGHT THIS SECOND. You knowwww how much I agree with your feelings on everything shippy/fluffy/bantery and I’m super glad this book lives up to it! I loved The Distance Between Us and want to read On the Fence again to see if I like it more the second time around. But oh man, I love fake dating and I’m dying to read The Fill In Boyfriend now!!

    • Christina Franke says:

      The shippiness sort of took a back seat for me, but it was definitely still a very good ship. I think that’s part of why I love this one so much. TDBU was ALL ship, but this one would still be amazing even without it, which is really saying something in a romance.

      FAKE DATING IS TEH BEST.

  4. Glad that you love it! Now I really can’t wait for this book. And I agree with you, West is really great at writing fluffy and adorable books!
    Great review <33
    Tiffany @ The Bookish Thought recently posted…Release Day Blitz : An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirMy Profile

  5. Lesley says:

    Okay, I am now very interested in reading this book! I didn’t like On the Fence at all and it kind of put me off reading this one, but your review has me all excited about it. Back on the to-read list!
    Lesley recently posted…Since We Last SpokeMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      If you liked her other ones, I think you should like The Fill-In Boyfriend. On the Fence went for a very different sort of romance and I think the tone was slightly different. I’d say this fits with her other novels more closely.

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