In Real Life by Jessica Love

in real life_quote top (1)In Real Life by Jessica Love
Published by St. Martin’s Press on March 1, 2016
Genres: [Young Adult] Contemporary
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

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4 Stars, Completed February 28, 2016

– SPOILER free  –

My best friend and I have never met.
We talk every day, on the phone or online, and he knows more about me than anyone. Like, deep into my soul. But we’ve never actually seen each other in real life.

This is the type of book that makes me wish I didn’t use a rating system with definitive stars. In Real Life can be a 3 star read for its noticeable flaws, yet it hits the spot so perfectly that it easily has become one of my favorite contemporary reads of all time.  So it looks like this review will be a battle between choosing to be the objective or subjective reviewer.

Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends ever since Hannah’s older sister met Nick’s older brother at a concert. They talk everyday, give each other presents, and share everything. But they’ve actually never met. Hannah, being the model student and daughter, has never done anything she’s not supposed to do. After some frustrating news she receives, she decides to take an impulsive trip to Las Vegas to break some rules and surprise Nick-and, perhaps, figure out what Nick truly means to her. But the plan utterly backfires when it appears Nick has been keeping secrets. Hannah begins to think maybe their online relationship was too good to be true.

I love internet friendships/relationships because I’ve had a fair share of them myself. I went to a considerably large public high school and there was no way anyone was able to know everyone. Therefore a lot of my high school friendships actually began online before I’d meet them in person-I know it sounds strange but its true. In fact, some of my closest friends from high school resulted from first chatting online. Of course, blogging (both my Tumblr for Exo and WordPress for books) has led me to a lot of online bonding with people I’ve never met in real life as well.

It’s also no surprise that I’m part of the majority that adored Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda last year for the cute online relationship between Simon and mysterious Blue. I enjoyed Everything, Everything because of the vignettes with Madeline and Olly’s chat room messages. And, probably like every other ’90s kid that was obsessed with Hilary Duff, I was a enchanted by the swoonworthy romance in A Cinderella Story, a Cinderella retelling also set in high school and features an online best friends friendship budding into something more.

The development of best friends into something more may be my absolute favorite romance trope because it’s the most realistic fictional romance to me. The fact that this was yet another online one made me extra giddy.

I could also really connect with Hannah, our protagonist. Hannah is the quintessential socially awkward, do-gooder Asian girl. She’s academically driven, pleases her parents, and has never tried anything that wasn’t expected of her. But we also have her older sister Grace that portrays the more easygoing, YOLO type of Asian girl, and I found this to be refreshing and just as realistic. And I absolutely fell in love with Nick. It was sort of hard not to. He’s attentive towards Hannah, awkward, charming, and funny, but he’s not perfect. As for the rest of the supporting cast, I wasn’t much invested with their appearances and found that they played weaker roles. Though, I did like that one of the characters was a blogger.

And speaking of that character, I noticed that a reviewer mentioned there was slutshaming in this book and that the blogger character was the target. I’m not denying the other reviewer’s opinion, but, for me, I really did not interpret the situation the reviewer referred to as slutshaming the same way. Sure, Hannah had moments where I wanted to smack her for her naivety and unpleasantries towards Nick’s friends, but she wasn’t bashing or ridiculing another character for being robust. If anything, I think Hannah was jealous of that other girl for her figure and other obvious reasons if you’ve read the book. And being envious of something means you respect and admire that trait. I mean, Hannah even confesses she likes the girl against her better judgement, again, for obvious reasons I shall not disclose because of spoilers. I just wanted to address this in case any of you are having qualms with picking up the book for that reason.

However, I have to to admit that In Real Life is an overly cliché, predictable teenage love story. There are lots of unnecessary drama and moments of irrational teenage angst. And some of the characters are vexing. This book isn’t a life changing contemporary with values that’ll keep you awake at night. And, admittedly, it may be a formulaic story that has been recreated many times in young adult literature.

BUT, but it’s a story so entertaining that I know I’ll have to revisit time and time again for the fun adventure. After practically being destroyed by A Little Life I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to see young adult books the same way again (hence why I read three works written for a more mature, adult audience after that one). And I certainly thought I’d fall into a slump, but I have to say this book managed to save myself from such a state. In Real Life was sweet, fluffy, and had all the right elements to make me swoon. 

Special thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me this review copy of In Real Life and giving me a chance to participate in this blog tour. In no way did this affect my reading experience or honest review.

Summer’s Playlist:
Your Face Your Call | Counting Down | Secret Valentine | Boys With Girlfriends | Love Me the Same | Fallin’ For You
*the bold/underlined are must listens!

If you’re interested to see if this if for you, St. Martin’s Griffin did provide me with an excerpt from the book, which you can preview below:

An excerpt from In Real Life by Jessica Love; Courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books.

My best friend and I have never met.

We talk every day, on the phone or online, and he knows more about me than anyone. Like, deep into my soul. But we’ve never actually seen each other in real life.

Sometimes, when I’m talking to Nick, I wonder how we managed to get ourselves into such a bizarre, complicated friendship. At first glance, our relationship probably doesn’t seem all that odd. Like right now, it’s the Friday afternoon that kicks off the spring break of my senior year. I’m lying out next to my pool with my feet dangling in the chilly water, my back flat on concrete, and I’m talking to him on the phone. This is how I spend pretty much every Friday from 3:30 to 4:25-ish, before he goes off to band practice and I have one of my various school or family obligations. Sounds pretty normal.

But the thing is, Nick lives in a different state, 274 miles away. Yes, I looked it up.

“Ghost,” he says, because he never calls me Hannah, “you know I will do anything for my best friend, and this is no exception. I’ll have this girl killed for you without a second thought. Just give me twenty-four hours.”

I laugh as I swish my feet back and forth in the pool. “There’s no need to resort to murder. It’s just a stupid student government trip. I’ll be over it by the end of the week.”

As tempting as it is to plot Aditi Singh’s violent end, the only reason she applied to go to the national leadership conference when it should have been a given that the senior class president (aka me) was going was because I got into UCLA and she didn’t, so a big ol’ middle finger to her. But she can’t see my middle finger, because she’s in Washington, D.C., for spring break and I’m at home with no plans like a big loser.

“Well, if you change your mind,” Nick says, “just let me know. That’s how much our friendship means to me. The code word is ‘Platypus.’ Just say it, and—poof!—I’ll make her disappear.”

I sit up and pull my feet from the pool, crossing them in front of me. “And how can you do that?”

“Hey, I live in Vegas. I have connections to the mob. Everyone here does.”

“You’re a senior in high school, and you live in a tract home in Henderson. You’re not exactly Al Pacino.”

“You don’t know. Everything I’ve told you for the past four years could be a front. I need to have a cover. No one suspects the quiet, nondescript white boy.”

“You’re right. There is a lot I don’t know about you. I mean, there are any number of huge secrets you could be keeping from me.” I say it just because I’m playing along, but it’s not true at all. I’m pretty sure I know everything there is to know about Nick Cooper.

I know when my sister met his brother at a concert four years ago and they told us we should start talking online, he thought I was one of his brother’s friends playing a joke on him until I e-mailed him a picture. I know in the middle of junior year, he shaved his head when his favorite English teacher started chemo. I know the gravelly scratch of his voice when he wakes up in the middle of the night to answer one of my random “I’m bored, talk to me” phone calls. I know the hole in the sleeve seam of the lucky Rage Against the Machine T-shirt he inherited from his brother, Alex, since I’ve seen so many pictures of it. I know his middle name (Anthony), the date and time he was born (September 24 at 3:58 A.M.), and his favorite color (gray). And he knows more about me than absolutely anyone else, even the über-embarrassing stuff. We’ve IM’d, texted, sent a million pictures, mailed each other packages, video-chatted, and talked on the phone.

We’ve just never been in the same place at the same time.

I don’t think it’s strange to be so close to someone I’ve never met. Yeah, he’s in Nevada and I’m in Southern California, but I talk to him more than to people I’ve been in classes with since kindergarten. I do wish we could go to the movies together or something normal like that, but we watch the same movies at the same time and mock them over video chat, which is pretty much the same thing.

On the other end of the phone, his laugh stops abruptly and his voice changes. “Secrets? What kind of secrets could I have?”

“Who knows!” I try to sound shocked and serious, but I can’t keep a laugh from creeping in. “For all I know, you do have a secret mob life. Do you have some sort of gangster name I’m supposed to call you?”

His voice lightens again when he realizes I’m joking. “Oh yeah. Knuckles Nick. Or, no. Wait. Nick the Click.”

“What does that even mean?”

“I don’t know. It rhymed. Don’t those names always rhyme?”

“I know nothing about mob names, Nick the Click. But rhyming names do make mobsters seem a bit less murder-y.”

There’s a shuffle, a thump, and a squeak on his end of the phone, and I imagine him collapsing backwards onto his twin bed. “I just hate that you’re still bummed over missing out on the trip.”

“It’s not that I’m bummed, it’s just . . . I followed all the rules, Nick. I did exactly what I was supposed to do. Serving four years as class president means I go on that trip, not Aditi Singh. Onetime vice-presidents don’t get to go! It’s supposed to be my year. She broke the rules, but she got picked. How do you break all the rules and get what you want like that? It isn’t fair.”

“Well, you know what they say. . . .” “Life’s not fair?”

“Well, that, too. But I was thinking rules are made to be broken.”

St. Martin’s Press has also provided me a wonderful playlist that represents this novel as well! You can check it out here. 

21 thoughts on “In Real Life by Jessica Love

  1. Nerdybirdy @ Daydreaming Books says:

    This book sounds exactly like my cup of tea despite having some clichéd factors. I love this kind of storyline and I would definitely love to give this one a try. Loved your review Summer! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marie @ drizzleandhurricanebooks says:

    What a great review, thank you for this, Summer ❤ I have this book on my TBR, and it sounds EXACTLY like the kind of book I could love. Plus, best friends falling in love, it’s just my favorite trope of all times. And that excerpt is so promising. I need to read that one soon! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dreamingthroughliterature says:

    Oo this book sounds really interesting! Also, I used to LOVE (okay I STILL do haha) A Cinderella Story. It’s such a fun story and great movie!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. cw @ readthinkponder says:

    Aahh what a lovely review, Summer! I also have a soft spot for unorthodox friendships/relationships, particularly since its such a common thing now but it still feels almost taboo to talk about. So I love the themes of this book already.

    The characters sound delightful and adorable, and I think I’ll love this book because of them despite the predictable plot.

    Eeep. Must. Read. This. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thuong Le says:

    Lovely review Summer! And yay for diversity, an actual asian main character in a YA book! That is rare. I did actually wanted to read this when I first heard about it but I guess I have a problem on cliched stories and slut-shaming – I think its a teenaged thing. Anyway this seems like a nice story but I’m probably going to give this one a miss!

    Liked by 1 person

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