Blog tour: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris

Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: DRC, Netgalley
Status: Book 1 of the Fine Art of Pretending companion series

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour. 

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.

The Fine Art of Pretending is not Rachel Harris's first novel (technically speaking, it's her seventh published), and contemporary romance is not new to Rachel, but for some reason, Fine Art feels entirely different than anything she's done before. I mean, I guess it kind of is since her other ya novels involve a magical element and her other strictly-contemporary novels are adult romances; however, there is something about Fine Art that really seems....just....different from her other works while simultaneously being Rachel Harris's brand of expectedly delightful.

What I mean by expectedly delightful is that I know when I pick up one of Rachel's books, I'm going to enjoy it. I'm going to smile. I'm going to laugh. I'm going to swoon. I'm going to be seriously concerned for the characters and wonder when they're going to Figure Things Out and Get Together Already! If you're looking for feel-good, sweet romances that will leave you with a smile on your face, Rachel's your girl. However, Rachel also usually has a lot to say about identity, not only discovering your identity but also being okay with who you really are, and I think Fine Art takes it to an entirely new level.

So the guys at Aly's school are typical high school guys, and they rate the girls. Thankfully, it's not on some scale but rather two groups: Casuals and Commitments, aka hookup material vs girlfriend material. Aly, not entirely comfortable in her own skin, feels like she's not asked out "enough" and starts this plan called Operation Sex Appeal to change that when her boy bff Brandon finally spills the beans on the Casuals/Commitments thing. Obviously, Aly is a Commitment, which really is a pretty high compliment. 1. Guys see you as long-term material. When guys are looking to get serious, you're on their radar. 2. I think it's decent of the guys at Fairfield to be somewhat smart enough to realize they shouldn't mess with some girls' feelings and attempt a hookup. As a self-considered Commitment, I totally get Aly. It is HARD to be the perpetually-single girl no matter how hard you try to channel your inner diva and be a strong, independent woman. It is HARD to be okay with yourself when you feel unwanted and lonely. It is HARD to not compare yourself to other girls, to also not be jealous of what they may have that you don't, to maintain a shred of self esteem when you inevitably do compare and get monstrously jealous. Anyway, Aly has her plan and then when Brandon talks to her, she suddenly has a goal to strive for: become a Casual. And the accomplishment that will mark her change in status? To go to Homecoming with the king of the boy Casuals if girls made such labels for the guys. I'm still with Aly. I don't necessarily agree that this was maybe the best goal, but I at least understand it. See above.

I really enjoyed the first part of Fine Art. Aly and Brandon fake-dating was exactly like actually dating, and I LOVED it. Usually I have to wait ages for the couple to go out and all that, but it happened so early, and their chemistry is awesome. Friends who become more FTW. I also really enjoyed the split pov because following Brandon while his brain was exploding from the juxtaposition of his best bud Aly becoming a Certified Hot Girl (ugh, I know it's shallow for a girl to only be "hot" after her makeover, but whatever) was highly entertaining as well as something I feel is entirely realistic. I loved this early half because it was sweet and fun. These two already act like they're in a long-term relationship because honestly, LTR's are like friendships plus some physical romance. 

But because this is a book, things go awry. Brandon and Aly both get confused about what's real and what's just for show. This is where I was lost a bit. I recently read a review that mentioned they dislike conflict that could easily be resolved if the characters actually talked to each other about said conflict. I do feel like Aly and Brandon had sat down to talk like they did when they formed the fake relationship, things would have been cleared up a lot sooner. But again, this is a book so it's not that easy. Also, we are talking about teenagers, who are notorious for NOT talking to anyone they might like-like so part of me wants to be fine with the conflict as is while the other part wishes the conflict had been a bit more real.

I enjoyed The Fine Art of Pretending. I think it contains an interesting dialog about changing yourself to make other people happy vs. accepting who you are, and I love that it includes a guy's perspective on witnessing this phenomenon in girls. I really could relate to Aly and fully understand her point of view because I've been there. Hell, I AM there, and it's a daily battle. I love Brandon, and I want him for my own best friend to talk to and OHMYGOSH share super hot kisses with (yes, there's kissing and YES it's hot). And I think this is a story that's pretty accessible to most readers. I think everyone will find someone to relate to because it's a pretty diverse cast of characters, and I know I'm definitely interested to see what happens to them all in book 2.

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About the Author:
Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls-next-door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Emotion, vibrant settings, and strong families are a staple in each of her Rachel Harrisbooks…and kissing. Lots of kissing.

A Cajun cowgirl now living in Houston, she firmly believes life’s problems can be solved with a hot, sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain situations. She homeschools her two beautiful girls and watches way too much Food Network with her amazing husband.

An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and losing herself in story. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romances, and LOVES talking with readers!

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 Signed copy of The Art of Pretending, poster, and handmade ribbon board
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  1. Thought I wanted to read this book, and now your review just confirms my thoughts. Must get my hands on a copy!!

  2. I want to see reality -- not something over-the-top and too sappy.