Published by Harlequin Teen on 05/30/2017
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
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?
There’s something about the writing duo that is Erin Watt. There is something intangible that makes their writing very compelling. I have been so frustrated lately because I’ve been having a hard time even finishing a book. I haven’t been able to connect to characters or find any interest in a story long enough to stick it out. But then I started When It’s Real and for some reason I couldn’t put it down.
There’s nothing inherently unique about this story. A “normal” girl and a rock star fall for each other. They each have issues from their childhood. Fans try to tear them down. There’s lots of drama and so on and so forth. But these authors found a way to take an overdone trope and elevate it enough that I was interested and wanted to keep going.
I connected well with the characters; Vaughn and Oakley had great chemistry and I really wanted to see them make it. I loved the tension in the beginning of the story and how that slowly evolved into a tentative friendship and eventually more.
I do have to say that I cringed some while reading it because it’s considered YA. This book seemed a bit mature to me. Maybe I’m becoming a prude the closer I get to my 30s or maybe it’s that I have a daughter. If you have a teenager wanting to read it, I suggest you read it first. There’s drinking, language, and sex, although the sexy scenes are mostly fade-to-black. I’m inclined to say it’s more New Adult, but again, maybe I’m just starting to forget what it was like to be a teenager.
Overall, I think this book was very well done. The writing was good, the story was sweet, and I totally fell in love with Vaughn and Oakley. I wasn’t expecting a lot since it’s classified as YA and I’m not usually one for that genre, but they completely won me over. They brought all of that magic from their series The Royals that makes you unable to put the book down and infused it in this one. I think their writing was even more developed in this book than in their past. You can tell they’ve grown together. Definitely recommend for when you need to lose yourself in a book. This one will take you back to your own days of young love and the feelings will swallow you whole.