I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Dating Game by Kiley Roache
Also by this author: Frat Girl
Published by Inkyard Press on March 26, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 384 •Format: ARC •Source: ALA, Publisher
The Social Network gets a romantic twist in this fresh and engaging new read from the author of Frat Girl, featuring college campus life as three freshman stuck working together on a group project create a dating app that goes viral, winning them fame, potential fortune...and more trouble than it might be worth.
When a prestigious class for future entrepreneurs leads to three freshman developing the next It App for dating on college campuses, all hell breaks loose...
Sara is a driven type-A control freak who lives by her color coordinated Post-it notes. Braden is a player who wants out from under his billionaire father's thumb. Roberto earned his place at Warren University through scholarship and can't afford for his grades to drop. When the three are forced to work together as a group in one of the university's most notoriously difficult classes, tension rises to the breaking point...until shockingly, the silly dating app they created in the final hour proves to be the most viable project in class. Late nights of app development, interest from corporate sponsors, and unexpected romance are woven into a true-to-life college drama that combines the intensity and atmosphere of The Social Network with a romantic twist.
Thank you so much to the publisher for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!
Novels set in college are one of my FAVORITE things as a reader. There’s so much potential for character development, self exploration, new themes and tropes, and just endless possibility really to break out of the traditional YA mold. What’s even more excellent is finding a college set novel that doesn’t fall into the romance/erotica heavy New Adult categorization either. Kiley Roache is an author who writes college stories that are just authentic enough to keep readers connected to the characters despite the potentially extraordinary things happening to them, like a girl rushing a fraternity or building the next multi-million dollar social media app. I was really excited to pick up The Dating Game and experience my college days again in Roache’s sophomore novel.
There’s a lot of really good things about this novel- set at the same university of her debut book, it features three freshmen students trying to find their footing and navigate the cut throat Silicon Valley culture at a premiere university where everyone’s resume is already a mile long. I think the topics of self worth, competition, and stress on young adults nowadays were really realistic and poignant- there’s so much pressure to overachieve from such a young age for a normal teen, let alone for teens wanting to go to top tier universities with 2% acceptance rates and major in computer science. The story also explores a variety of social statuses and privileges through its POV characters.
The story focuses on three protagonists, Sara, Robbie, and Braden, who all come from different background and socioeconomic backgrounds but are all dealing with significant levels of stress and anxiety from their own unique circumstances. When they are sort of thrown together for a class project they end up accidentally making a “hot new app” that basically exploits the human need for vanity and validation. As you can imagine, such instant success leads to all sorts of unique and challenging situations for the three of them. The story of their freshmen year navigating the app is told in rotating POVs that all have a distinct voice and a format that worked for me (until the very end- but I’ll get to that later on).
While it was fun watching the characters have their own tech start up journey (and see how it did, and did not, mirror those stories of the founders of Facebook, Google, Apple, etc.) there was quite a bit of predictability in the plot, especially in regards to the moral dilemma some of the characters faced with the app. There was also a large romantic element that was unsurprising (they did invent a dating app, after all) but I think we’re also all pretty tired of love triangles in the book community. ALSO this book contained the dreaded “sentence” in regards to one holding a breath one did not know they were holding and I’m honestly still trying to figure out if the author intentional put it there on purpose to troll readers knowing how everyone complains about it on book Twitter (and if she did, total props to her for the sort of inside joke lol).
***Please note the section below will contain some mild spoilers.***
One huge issue that I did have with the book, however, was the portrayal of the antagonist. Now, I’m all for the realistic portrayal of how greedy, selfish, etc. humans can be, however one of the main characters goes from 50 to 500 on the evil scale toward the end of the book and just completely stops being a POV character and I was just like ???? It felt rushed and underdeveloped and like it needed to be written with more nuance, especially since there’s a scene earlier on where readers are obviously supposed to feel sympathy for this character and then NOPE he just ends up being a giant jerk at the end. In the epilogue there’s a very short scene that I think is supposed to “redeem” the character but it didn’t really work for me- it seemed half hearted and just thrown in.
Overall: A fun (if predictable) book set in college touching on entrepreneurship and the start up culture. While it isn’t a new favorite for me, if you’re looking for more YA/NA crossover without excessive romance this could be a good fit for you!