Thursday, January 4, 2018

"The Practice Boyfriend" by Christina Benjamin

Well, it's January 4, and I have my first "dud" of the reading year. It was bound to happen, right? But did it really have to be my third book of the year?

It's my fault, really. I got this book through the Kindle Owner's Lending Library without reading any reviews, but author Christina Benjamin was compared to Kasie West, and you know I love me some Kasie West! Plus, the title brought to mind the adorable Adorkable, which is another fake boyfriend book that I really enjoyed reading last year.

Practice makes perfect...or so she thought.

Nobody likes Cody Matthews, including Cody Matthews. And why should they? He got his high school girlfriend pregnant and then almost killed them both while driving drunk. That’s why he’s perfect for Hannah. She’d never fall for someone like him.

Hannah Stark is a high school senior with a resume of straight A’s. She’s never stepped a toe out of line. But that’s also why she’s never had a boyfriend. While all her classmates are counting down the days until graduation, Hannah is dragging her feet. She can’t believe she’ll be leaving her adolescence behind without ever taking a chance to be wild and free. That’s why she’s set her sights on Harrison. 

Harrison Cohl is everything Hannah wants to be. Gorgeous, wealthy, popular and wild. He’s also notorious for the legendary masquerade ball he throws every year. And this year Hannah is determined to be invited. And have Harrison as her date. 

Her plan is crazy. But she’s convinced she just needs a little practice to make her high school résumé perfect.

I'm a sucker for fake relationship stories. I love YA novels. So a fake relationship YA novel would seemingly be a book I'd love ... and The Practice Boyfriend truly did have some enjoyable moments. (The tennis practice scene was probably my favorite, and I loved the mentions of classic romance movies.) But Hannah, the main character, is basically insufferable. She has zero friends—not a one, not even among the other smart kids—basically because she has never tried to befriend anyone. And her impetus for trying to infiltrate the "in" crowd is not loneliness or a desire for friendship; it's the fact that she doesn't know what to say in her graduation speech because she didn't experience any of the "craziness" of high school.

I can understand Hannah's naïveté when it comes to boys—she's never had a friend, let alone a boyfriend—but she takes it to a new level. Multiple times while she's getting to know Harrison, she notices something sinister, "off," or evil about him, yet she believes what he tells her about Cody and continues to date him. And then she goes to his masquerade ball even though she knows he's lied to her and she's seen his violent streak. It's just stupidity, and I had a hard time pulling for her.

I liked Cody a bit more than Hannah—he wasn't the bad boy everyone made him out to be—but he also had alcohol and grief issues that made me want to see him get help rather than end up with Hannah.

Honestly, I don't know why I finished this book. I guess I kept hoping it would get better, but it left me disappointed. If you're looking for great YA with a similar vibe, check out Cookie O'Gorman's Adorkable or Jenny B. Jones' I'll Be Yours instead.

Basically, The Practice Boyfriend is Kasie West + swearing + drinking + sexual situations - captivating writing. So ... not very West-like, except that it's contemporary YA. 1-1/2 stars.

Content note: The Practice Boyfriend contains quite a few swear words, several instances of teenage drinking, unintentional drug use, and a few "almost sex" scenes. It also deals with topics like suicide and sexual assault. The author recommends it for ages 16+, but I'd move that to at least 18. It's definitely R-rated territory.

Award-Winning author Christina Benjamin lives in Florida with her husband and character inspiring pets, where she spends her free time working on her books and speaking to inspire fellow writers. 

Christina is best known for her wildly popular Young Adult series, The Geneva Project.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed this book and chose to review it. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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