From #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt comes the addictive contemporary tale of a teen rock star in need of an image makeover and the teen girl hired to be his fake girlfriend.
Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.
Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?
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Erin Watt continues to realistically capture teenage angst in all its varying degrees as well as the overwhelming and contradictory emotions that are attributed to growing up in their newest mature YA romance release, When It’s Real.
Let’s be honest…teenagers are over the top when it comes to dealing with almost any situation…their hormones are all over the place and who they are and what they stand for are just being developed. In the simplest terms, teenagers are a work-in-progress, so when their lives become more than they can handle, whether it be due to a loss or instant fame at a young age like our hero and heroine experience, there are bound to be issues where they don’t think things through or do what’s expected or safe quite simply because they don’t take the time to look at the big picture and understand the complications of their actions.
Oakley Ford became a household name at an extremely young age, indulging in all that comes with stardom, and while boys will be boys, especially when they’re left to their own devices, Oak’s image has taken a hit, causing his label as well as his manager to get creative in rehabbing how the public views him.
Enter Vaughn Bennett
Vaughn fits the “normal” girl persona that Oakley’s team wants as his fake girlfriend, and while Vaughn has a number of reasons why she shouldn’t take on this role, the only one that matters is what motivates her to follow through with their farcical relationship.
But in a place where everything is already fake and masks are worn to conceal who everyone truly is, how does an ordinary teen separate what’s fake and what’s real, especially when she doesn’t even know who she is or what she wants out of life?
Erin Watt does a fantastic job of illustrating the contradictory nature of Hollywood as well as the price that’s paid for choosing to live in its fishbowl environment. Oakley Ford appears to have everything he’s always wanted, but none of it’s real…none of it has a lasting impact; in fact, all it does is make him appear even more self-absorbed and screwed up than he already was. It’s a “plastic existence” until Oak realizes what’s important, which only happens once he gets over himself and truly sees the new kind of normal that Vaughn can offer him, even in their fake relationship.
Both Oakley and Vaughn are imperfect characters and that’s why they will resonate with readers…even those who are way passed their own teenage years. There is such transformation and awareness that comes with growing up and when extreme situations become part of the picture, things are bound to get shaken up, leaving these young adults with a whole lot of food for thought as well as a reason to self-assess and figure out a way to change for the better because they want to…not just because they have to.
The one overpowering idea that teenagers want to grasp and truly feel is that they belong…what that looks like and who or what they belong to is not universal, but being aware of the fact that they have a say in their own lives and the direction it takes gives them control, which is what Oakley and Vaughn desperately need, and even though their desire for it stems from two very different situations, together, they seem able to face the reality of things…to exist in a life and a society that clearly want something from them, but they get to decide what that is as long as it’s real!
4.5 Poison Apples