Review: In Real Life by Jessica Love

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: standalone
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 a 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.

A couple of weeks ago I had a hankering for a fun, fluffy, romantic contemporary YA that will make me swoon and root for the main couple so I picked up Jennifer E. Smith's Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between and was sorely disappointed (more of my thoughts about it here).

Well, everything I was looking for in Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between I found in In Real Life. It had all the fluffy, fun, teenaged angst-y Las Vegas adventure I wanted and I swooned through all the cutesy moments. I rooted for Hannah and Nick to get together, even though there were times I wanted to reach into the pages and shake Hannah because of her choices which I will get into later on.

I kind of had a hard time with Hannah's character. For the most part, I liked her. I saw a lot of my high school self in her. We're both rule followers, see ourselves as the good girl, the straight As student, the DD at parties, and a bit of a control freak. At the same time, she made some dumb decisions and wasted opportunities, and was unfair towards her friends, especially Nick's girlfriend Frankie.

Okay, so Hannah and Nick have been best friends since the eight grade when her older sister Grace met Nick's brother Alex at a concert and introduced Hannah and Nick. Ever since then, Hannah and Nick had a long distance friendship (she lives in Orange County, California and he lives in Henderson, Nevada) and talk to each other multiple times a day on the phone and online. Although they never met in real life, they're best friends and tell each other almost everything. The thing that Hannah had kept to herself (actually, barely even admitting it to herself) was that over the years, she's developed romantic feelings for Nick. So, during spring break on her senior year of high school, she decided to break all the rules and drive to Vegas, with Grace and her real life best friend Lo, to tell Nick how she really felt.

But, when she finally met Nick in real life, she found out that he's been keeping some big secrets--one of which was that he has a girlfriend, Frankie. Frankie was friendly, fun, outgoing, and really nice, but Hannah hated her on sight because she was Nick's girlfriend. Hannah wasn't very nice to Frankie throughout the novel, not reciprocating Frankie's friendliness and was basically trying to steal Nick from her. I just felt bad for Frankie, who really didn't do anything wrong and just wanted to be friends with Nick's long-time friend. So, Hannah and Nick's sweet moments were a bit tainted by that--I mean, I still rooted for Hannah and Nick because they're a better match, but poor Frankie.

Another thing that bothered me about Hannah was that she takes the easy way out, or runs from challenges. She had plenty of opportunities to tell Nick her feeling for him, only to chicken out or run away. She was upset when her friends left her to have their own fun, because they were supposed to be there to support her. I loved when her friend Lo finally called her out on it, and gave her some tough love.

But, at the same time I couldn't dislike Hannah for her frustrating moments because at seventeen she was me. Her flaws were my flaws. I have a feeling that if I was put in the same situation and circumstances as her, I would've acted and responded in a similar way. I would've rather irrationally hate Frankie than face the fact that I was jealous and that it was my fault that Nick was going out with her in the first place. I would've relied on my friends to tell me what to do instead of making my own decisions. But, Hannah grew and made some important realizations about herself and about life, which was awesome. And, I really do love her and Nick together. Their ending was swoon-worthy perfection.

One of my favorite thing in In Real Life was its setting, which was on the Vegas Strip. I had a chance to visit Las Vegas a couple of years ago, so I walked the same streets and saw the same sights, lights, and crazies as Hannah and her friends did, which was really fun. It's a bit like reliving that trip again, but seeing it through a character's eyes.

I also loved that Hannah and Grace were Korean, and Hannah's best friend Lo was Mexican. Yay for diversity!

In Real Life was a really cute read. Yes, it was cliche and trope-y and nothing will really surprise you in terms of plot, but never in a bad way. Add In Real Life in your list of fun, fluffy, romantic contemporary YA because sometimes we just need that kind of read, and this novel delivered on the sweet, fun, and fluffy romance.

Read-alikes: #scandal by Sarah Ockler, Magnolia by Kristi Cook, This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith, Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

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