Also by this author: The Distance Between Us, Lucky in Love
Published by HarperTeen on May 5th 2015
Pages: 352 •Goodreads
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.
I picked up my first Kasie West books in the hopes that it would add some levity to my reading schedule. I was in the middle of slogging through Illuminae (which is very good, but also very depressing) and needed something easy and fun to read- you know, something I could read in the bathtub or while waiting for an appointment. While The Fill-In Boyfriend definitely was fun, fluffy, and quick, I felt like I missed the rave-worthy aspects that I’ve heard so much about regarding West’s writing.
The best and worst thing about this novel was the character development. There were some characters that were entertaining and provided much needed real talk at times, such as Bec, and characters who really felt like they only existed to help propel the plot (such as Gia’s parents and brother). Fill-In Bradley was very sweet and sincere, and it was refreshing to see a male love interest who had more varied interests and traits than the standard athlete or class president type. While Gia was not a memorable protagonist, I thought her character growth was fairly realistic and found her tolerable throughout the novel. However, I also have to question why nearly everyone had toxic friendships in this novel, and why they were so willing to forego decades long friendships for a love interest or new classmate.
The aspect about this book that most irked me was Jules. She is the antagonist of the novel who constantly antagonizes Gia, trying to turn her friends against her so she can have them for herself. It’s constantly referenced that she has a “hard home life” as an explanation for her cruel and catty attitude, but it’s never explained in depth and is a pretty shallow excuse. I really wanted to see Jules face some karma at the end of the novel for how badly she bullied Gia and manipulated everyone around her, but *minor spoiler* Gia ends up taking ownership, thinking had she been friendlier to Jules she wouldn’t have had tried so hard to socially cripple Gia. While I appreciate Gia being the bigger person, Jules is clearly a character who is a bully and I don’t think it’s a great message that Gia essentially excused her behavior at the end, as behavior like that in high school is really toxic and can have lasting consequences. */rant*
Overall: The Fill-In Boyfriend was a quick, light read that had some sweet moments but lacked depth and is easily forgettable among the many, many choices in YA contemporary literature. I am still hoping to read West’s other works in the hopes that they will provide more a little more substance and originality.