The Fine Art of Pretending

The Fine Art of Pretending (The Fine Art of Pretending, #1)The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book really peeved me. Is that a word? “Peeved?” Oh well, I’m using it. My main issue with it was that it didn’t do a very good job of delivering its message. At all.

Honestly, we’ve all read this book or seen this movie before. The mousy, tomboy wants boys to start paying her attention so she has a makeover and changes everything about herself to get attention. The platonic, male best friend agrees to be her pretend boyfriend in order to further the charade. They fall in love.

The problem with this novel is not that it’s cliche and been done before- I have no issue with this at all- it’s that the book delivers the message that this works. If you change everything about yourself, then boys will like you, that most popular guy in school who is generally considered a giant dick will turn out to be the nicest, most romantic guy ever AND like you! Then, if you’ve changed everything about yourself, your super hot best friend will see you in a completely different light and you will realize you’re in love with him too and not the super hot, popular, former womanizer you thought you liked.

The book even flat out states that the only reason Brandon started to look at Aly in a romantic way is because she started dressing “more like a girl.” (Because girls have to dress and act a certain way to be taken seriously as girls- amiright?! I’m not even going to touch that misogyny.)

It seemed like about 80% through the book, the author realized that she may not have been delivering the message she meant to and started to backtrack. Now Brandon had liked Aly all along, blah, blah, blah. Just be yourself, blah, blah, blah, but a slightly better version of yourself!

If I had a young daughter, I would not allow her to read this book. The message is confusing. Be yourself, but better? At the end of the book, Aly realizes that she should be who she was before, but a slightly more feminine version. Because that’s always better right? Men never ever like tomboys! Aly decides it’s okay to be the “cute, funny friend.” F that noise! The “cute, funny friend?” Are you serious? What a great message that sends for her to see herself like that at the end! I guess she likes herself a little, that’s enough right?

I’m kind of digressing into a rant now, but this really pissed me off. There are almost 7 billion people in the world. There’s someone for everyone! Young women do not need to read a book that encourages them to wear more makeup, shorter skirts, etc- just be yourself! Someone great will like you. It was really disheartening when Aly began her transformation and literally everyone else in the book responded so positively. Now she’s worthy of their time.

I had countless other complaints, but I’ll just briefly touch on the biggest two:

1. The author seems EXTREMELY out of touch. It’s like she’s trying to be a “cool mom.” She’s totally hip and down and knows the lingo. The characters are constantly saying things like “he’s my hookup.” It was entirely cringe worthy. I mean, I’m kind of old, but I’m pretty sure teenagers don’t talk like that.

But let’s say that kids really do talk like this. The inauthentic way the word choices come across isn’t the only issue. The other problem is that I could never quite figure out what the kids meant by “hookup.” No one in this book seems to be having sex. They kiss some, but it’s tame. In general, it seems like if someone is your “hookup” they are your significant other. However the characters seem to make some distinction between “hookup” and boy/girlfriend. I never could quite figure out what exactly the difference was! Maybe I’m the uncool one?

2. The high school mascot is the “hokie.” This has haunted me. I can’t stop thinking about this. Maybe it’s just because we’re a Virginia Tech family, but this killed me. The “hokie” is a made up thing. When Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College changed its name to Virginia Polytechnic Institute they had a contest to see who could create the best cheer. The cheer that won had the word “hokie” in it. This became the nickname for sports teams at VT. The word is literally the product of some student’s imagination and has no meaning. It belongs to Virginia Tech. SOME HIGH SCHOOL IN TEXAS CAN’T JUST TAKE IT! It’s not like an eagle or a tiger. The hokie can’t exist outside of its VT context because it doesn’t mean anything. It only means something to Virginia Tech.

So that’s that. I had high hopes for this novel and it failed to meet them.

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