Analee, in Real Life by Janelle Milanes

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

Analee, in Real Life by Janelle MilanesAnalee, in Real Life by Janelle Milanes
Published by Simon Pulse on September 18, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Ever since her mom died three years ago, Analee Echevarria has had trouble saying out loud the weird thoughts that sit in her head. With a best friend who hates her and a dad who’s marrying a yogi she can’t stand, Analee spends most of her time avoiding reality and role-playing as Kiri, the night elf hunter at the center of her favorite online game.

Through Kiri, Analee is able to express everything real-life Analee cannot: her bravery, her strength, her inner warrior. The one thing both Kiri and Analee can’t do, though, is work up the nerve to confess her romantic feelings for Kiri’s partner-in-crime, Xolkar—aka a teen boy named Harris whom Analee has never actually met in person.

So when high school heartthrob Seb Matias asks Analee to pose as his girlfriend in an attempt to make his ex jealous, Analee agrees. Sure, Seb seems kind of obnoxious, but Analee could use some practice connecting with people in real life. In fact, it’d maybe even help her with Harris.

But the more Seb tries to coax Analee out of her comfort zone, the more she starts to wonder if her anxious, invisible self is even ready for the real world. Can Analee figure it all out without losing herself in the process?

One of the greatest feelings in the world (at least if you’re super bookish) is finding a new author whose books you love. I read Milanes’ first two books pretty much back-to-back, and they were both so excellent in both similar and different ways. Analee, in Real Life has all the nerdiness, banter, and strong narrative voice of the first but it ends up taking things in a completely different direction. This book’s admittedly slightly less #mything, but it’s still just so damn good, and I’m super happy these books are in the world.

Something I praised a lot about The Victoria in My Head was the sheer tropetasticness of the book, as well as the strong feel of realism to it. The former absolutely applies to Analee, in Real Life, but it’s a bit more fanciful. Like, let’s be honest: fake dating happens in real life probably 1% of the times it happens in novels. FYI that’s not a complaint because I adore that trope.

There are strong To All the Boys I Loved Before vibes to this one from a plot perspective, with a quirky nerd girl ending up fake dating a hot, popular guy she very briefly thought was cute but then abandoned for a different crush. It’s not the same story by any means, but I do think that if you liked To All the Boys, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. Analee and Lara Jean face some similar emotional hurdles and the romance dynamics are reminiscent. I feel like I’m making this book sound derivative, but it’s really not; it reminded me in a good way, not a bad one.

Analee has an amazing, snarky voice, like Victoria did, but Analee’s so much darker and grumpier. Having just reread the first two Jessica Darling books, I can’t not make that comparison too. Like JD, Analee’s hugely judgmental of those around her, though perhaps not quite as aware of it as Jessica is. Analee longs for connection but puts down anyone who tries to get close to her, and dear lord is it relatable. She knows she’s not the easiest person to get along with but she mostly attributes her solo status to other people being awful or to her body not being the right kind of body, rather than her own actions. Obviously, all things are potentially a factor, but this book is all about Analee needing to own up to her own behavior too.

At the start, Analee’s nurturing a serious crush on her online bestie, Harris, who she’s never met in person or seen a picture of, struggling to get over her best friend dumping her in favor of a popular boyfriend, and trying to figure out how she feels about her father’s pending remarriage. Most important, though, is her continuing grief over the death of her mother a few years before. Watching a friend begin going through grief now, I think it’s so important to have YA showing the way that the grieving process really never ends, and this book does that really nicely. With all this stuff going on, combined with the hormones of being a teenager, it’s understandable that Analee’s rather irascible.

Because in fiction-land, this stuff happens all the time, she ends up fake-dating Seb with the goal of him getting his perfect ex back and her getting her ex-bestie back while maybe also making Harris jealous. It’s a perfect plan, right? One thing I really enjoyed about the execution of this was that they really did practice kissing and stuff, and also that Seb accepted her being mostly uncomfortable with PDA, even though that was some of the point.

The ending, I’ll admit, was not personally my favorite, and I did think it was the weakest part of the novel in some ways, though I was still really happy with it overall. I do wish more time had been spent on the emotional recovery of Analee’s friendship with Lily (and Lily’s romance with Colton too actually), because I feel like that kinda got glossed over rather than being the emotional high point it could have been. Similarly, Harris was definitively underutilized, but I did like that his involvement did not happen the way I would expect (romance is all about tiny trope flips). Oh, on the other hand, I really loved the resolution of the family plot; I thought it was really sweet but in a realistic way, not a romanticized unbelievable way.

Thoughts on the rest of the resolution in spoiler tags because spoilers. <spoiler>Obviously, I also would have preferred that Seb not sleep with his ex-girlfriend again only to realize that he wants Analee. AHHHHHHHH. I’m so unclear on whether he really did get back together with Chloe at the end or if that was merely a rumor. Not starting a relationship at that point was absolutely the right choice for Analee at that point, but personally I’d have liked the book more if he didn’t do that and they were a couple. BUT I can acknowledge that there’s not much of this in YA, and that they definitely were not in a place to be together in a healthy relationship at the end of the book.</spoiler>

You guys, I super super want a sequel to this book. It’s so good but also I’m not done with Analee’s story yet. It’s not incomplete as it is but I. Want. More.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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