***Disclaimer: All opinions are my own.***
“Mocking someone else to make us seem deep or intelligent only proves the exact opposite.” – Kasie West, The Fill-In Boyfriend
The Fill-In Boyfriend Review
**BE WARNED – CONTAINS SPOILERS**
The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West is a standalone young adult romance novel that emphasizes how a journey towards self-discovery can be significantly motivated when influenced by love. The Fill-In Boyfriend focuses on Gia Montgomery, a popular high school senior with the stereotypical perfect life; supportive family, reliable best friends, attractive boyfriend, and an enviously excellent academic career. Unfortunately, Gia’s picture-perfect existence starts to unravel when her boyfriend dumps her on the night of prom. Fearing her friends’ judgement, Gia makes an impulsive decision; asking the random (yet handsome) stranger in a nearby parked car to be her temporary boyfriend. Her overall proposal is simple enough; convince her friends of their ‘relationship’ long enough to stage a public break up at the end of prom.
Once the scheme has run its course, proving to Gia’s friends that her boyfriend exists, they can part ways. In Gia’s mind, her decision and ultimate actions are justifiable as she is just ‘rearranging’ the events of the night; it’s not lying if the events really happened. However, Gia’s seemingly flawless ruse begins to collapse when she finds herself constantly thinking of her mysterious prom date, long after their arrangement has ended. Unbeknownst to her, Gia’s ‘fall from grace’ that fateful night not only forced her to cross paths with this mysteriously attractive man, but it also sparks her into questioning who she is and ultimately discovering who she wants to be.
At the start of the novel, Gia Montgomery is portrayed as the snobby yet shallow popular student. Constantly depending on validation from others, Gia does not have a personality separate from the ‘spotlight’. In other words, she presents herself in the image the world has deemed to be perfect; so, if arriving at prom without a date is considered ill-advised, she modifies her path away from that course. Her initial attitude and overall indifferent personality was exhausting to witness. Luckily, once she met Hayden, otherwise known as the Fill-In Boyfriend, her overall demeanor began to evolve. She finds herself wanting to be better; no longer blindly accepting her friends demeaning comments towards others or constantly seeking validation from strangers. In a way, meeting Hayden, and developing the eventual crush, allowed Gia to slowly examine her overall attitude and consequent actions and how they affect others.
For instance, a friend’s nonchalant comment regarding a band’s potential may have been funny to her, but to the band in question, it crushed their dreams and confidence. This lesson is further solidified when her brother releases a film documentary about the technological addiction our generation faces starring none other than herself as the main offender. Being subjected to this type of criticism, in front of not only an audience but also Hayden himself, gives Gia the final push she needs to fully assess who she is. While she initially denies her portrayal in the infamous film, she ends up realizing that he was right. She is addicted to her phone and the consequential validation. She does rank her self-worth based on the amount of likes a picture gets. She is exactly what her brother documented.
This realization, while difficult, was a wake-up call. As a result, she alters her actions. She stops obsessively checking her phone, stops asking her friends for verification on an outfit, and ultimately stops taking a back seat to her own feelings. She allows herself to feel and to express those emotions. Hayden, as the amazing person that he is, takes her to a junk yard where she is allowed full reign to throw baseballs and destroy whatever she pleases; the ultimate outlet of expressing emotion. However, Gia’s new attitude towards life does not go unnoticed. Her friends begin to see the difference and notice the distance Gia has placed between them and herself. That distance is (maybe permanently) solidified when her prom night charade is exposed. When the lie is revealed, Gia is initially devastated. She essentially lost her best friends and let them down all at the same time.
Nevertheless, as time goes on, the hurt subsides, and she realizes that maybe this separation is for the best. Her relationship with those friends was a huge influencer on her past actions. As she has changed since then, maybe it is time to move on. Besides, through Hayden, she has gained other (and better) friends that truly know Gia for who she is. Overall, while Gia was annoying at the beginning, her overall character development was rewarding to witness. By the end of the novel, I found myself really enjoying who she turned out to be.
No romance novel is complete without the swoon-y love interest. The love interest in The Fill-In Boyfriend is our mysterious stranger from prom, whose real name is Hayden. Our first introduction to Hayden is certainly unconventional. Persuaded into playing a last-minute fake boyfriend isn’t exactly the best way to truly become acquainted with someone. Nevertheless, Hayden’s eventual adaption to Gia’s outrageous scheme and his ability to rise to the challenge provide a quick look into his true personality. For instance, Hayden’s willingness to help Gia in her time of need displays his compassion for others as well as his kindness. In addition, when first presented with the plan, he not only changes his wardrobe to fit the part, but he also alters his character through important questions regarding his fake persona. This dedication and attention to detail not only further portrays his true character but also begs the question if he has done this before. Luckily, our question is not left unanswered for long.
Through subsequent encounters with Hayden, we discover that he is in fact studying to be an actor. This background and overall passion for theatre explains how easy it was for him to assume a new identity. It also highlights his ambition, which helps influence other aspects of his life. Aspects such as the undeniable chemistry with Gia. This chemistry between Hayden and Gia not only drove the story and Gia’s character evolution but it also allows Hayden to break free from his constricting past. A past that includes a manipulative ex-girlfriend, lousy ex-best friends that steal ex-girlfriends, sleazy and disgusting friends, and an overall doubting conscience due to a lack of similar interests between himself and his group of friends. Just as their relationship persuaded Gia, Hayden wants to be better. He wants to be confident in himself and his passions. He wants to be with people that make him happy and not question their ulterior motives. He gains the courage to break free from his ‘demons’ through his interactions (and feelings) with Gia.
One of the more defining moments in Hayden’s journey is when he trusts his friend’s version of an incident over Gia’s side and is eventually proven wrong. Hayden’s friend essentially asked Gia to pretend to be his date (similar to Gia and Hayden’s original arrangement) for a party and suggested that payment would be given in the form of sexual favors. Rightfully so, Gia is furious and walks out. Hayden hears the truth from Gia but has trouble believing it when his friend originally claims something entirely different occurred. He believes his friend only because he has known him longer than Gia. While this behavior is aggravating in the moment, it does portray Hayden’s unwavering loyalty to his loved ones. However, when Hayden hears the truth from said guilty friend, his priorities and allegiances are put into perspective. He realizes (like Gia) that maybe his current friends are holding him back and, in a way, hindering his life. While he doesn’t want to cut all ties with them, he does realize that it is ok to let go. In general, Hayden was an amazing character from start to finish. His personality was refreshing when countered with Gia’s original snobby attitude. In a way, it is almost like their personalities rubbed off on each other; Gia learned to be passionate and less dependent while Hayden learned to evaluate people based on their actions, not through their emotional connections.
The Fill-In Boyfriend was an adorable yet provocative read. The eventual relationship between Gia and Hayden was quite angst-y. There were a fair share of ‘would they wont they’ moments, which only drew me in further. However, while the promise of romance initially drew me in, the questioning of actions and characteristics is what held me in. The unexpected analysis of the technical ‘apocalypse’ that plagues our generation was an interesting concept. It was a thought provoking topic that I was not expecting from a romance novel. It actually made me question my own actions and dependencies in regard to my phone and social media. Even though I do not think I actively seek out validation, I can acknowledge my technological crutch and that I definitely rely on my phone more than I should. Therefore, if you are in the mood for a swoon worthy romance with a side of deep personal insight, then The Fill-In Boyfriend is the book for you.
The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West was published on May 5, 2015. To experience first-hand the heart-warming effects of this blossoming romance, start by visiting her website.
My Rating: 4.5/5