In Real Life – Jessica Love – St. Martin’s Griffin – Published 1 March 2016
Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.
There’s just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.
Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Las Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.
Hannah’s surprise romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.
In Real Life is a contemporary about two teens who are best friends online but have never met. Unfortunately, what could have been an interesting and fun romance, was instead trivial and full of drama.
Nick and Hannah have been best friends online for years, but when Hannah decides it’s finally time to meet she sets off to surprise Nick at his band’s performance in Las Vegas. But Nick has a few surprises of his own for Hannah, none of which Hannah is all that happy about. They have one night to sort things out and rescue their friendship.
The first couple of chapters alternate between real time and different past times over the course of Nick and Hannah’s online friendship. As Hannah journeys to Las Vegas with her sister and best friend, the alternations stop, with the chapters staying focused on Hannah in the current time. I think continuing the flashbacks would have cemented the idea of Nick and Hannah’s friendship, showing readers how important their friendship is to each other rather than trying to reiterate this. Instead we are left with Hannah’s uncertain feelings and endless comments about how nervous she is about meeting Nick, how important he is to her, and that they really are not anything more than friends, but then suddenly, oh yeah she’s totally in love with him and now he just broke her heart. On and on. Okay, enough already. We get it when you say it the first time! I mean, they really couldn’t title this book anything else, because clearly the amount of times the words ‘real life’ are used in the story made it an obvious title (21 times if you are interested. And yes, I counted. The word real was used so many times I gave up counting).
The book’s whole complication, that Nick has been keeping secrets from Hannah, results because Hannah lied to him in the first place, yet she only focuses on how much of a liar Nick is. Hypocrite much? She also complains. A lot. She’s tired of being left out. She is sick of being the third wheel. Before, she thought Nick’s friends were so cool but the minute she meets them she seems to hate them all, for various reasons. She didn’t get the guy, who up until this moment she said she didn’t want as anymore than a friend anyway and now she feels all empty and alone. It’s sad to see someone so focused on finding their happiness in others. She’s a coward and never fights for what she wants. Nick is totally justified in how he reacts to her. And her friend is also justified in what she says. I think my favourite line was “Do something. If not, shut up about it and deal.”
I was hoping for some big reveal, some twist that would make things interesting or justify some of the lead up. While there was a small reveal it wasn’t enough to make me love this book. The concept of this book was interesting and had potential, the writing style was also solid but there wasn’t enough to set this book apart, no decent underlying message and Hannah’s character was enough to make me quite happy when it was over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a book I enjoyed.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Romance, online relationships, friendship, road trip, sisters.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references,. Infrequent coarse language, s***, dou***, assh***. Gambling. Underage alcohol use.
Published: 1 March 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 240 pages.