Book Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

This book was everything I wanted it to be: hilarious, cutesy romantic, and just a little tear-inducing near the end.

3.5/5 stars

cover the fill in boyfriend

Amazon Description

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable…convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

The problem is that days after prom, she can’t stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship?

Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Kasie West’s talent shines in this tale of one girl’s unexpected quest to find love…and possibly herself.

My Review

I liked this book a lot, but it was missing that spark of originality that I look for in books.

Gia was an interesting protagonist. I definitely empathized with her, but I also realized that she was not a great person. At the start of the book, Gia is image-obsessed and shallow, with a bit of a manipulator hidden behind her Nice Girl. Thankfully, she wasn’t superficial and bitchy enough for me to hate her (and thus hate the story), especially because she starts to become self-aware early on in the story.

Gia’s transformation into a humbler, more down-to-earth girl was written well. Did it have it’s cheesy Mean Girls moments? Heck yes. But the social commentary (especially pertaining to our modern reliance on social media for validation) hit home for me more than the stereotypical bitch-to-loyal-friend transition, and it actually made me think about my own values in a slightly different light. I never lost sight of Gia’s character, and she was never completely fixed, but she was knocked down a few pegs, and I admired her for it.

Fill-in Bradely (I’m purposefully not saying his name because there is a cute scene attached to it) was an entertaining love interest. I loved the subtle references to his geeky t-shirts, and most of his dialogue was pretty funny. Making him be an actor was a smart decision, plot-wise, because it added some realism to the idea of him playing Gia’s BF for prom night. His sister, Bec, was everything I’ll ever need from a sassy side-character, and I’d love to read a spin-off about her.

Watching Gia and FIB fall in love was adorable and emotional. Though you never would have expected it on the first page, they were actually a good fit for each other. I really appreciated that fact that both of them had had SOs before, so that there was none of the usual “omg I’ve never held hands with a guy before” nonsense that seems to come with plots like this. The arc of the romantic plot line follows the usual chicklit rise-and-fall, but it still told a sweet story.

The plot was the most under-whelming part of the book. While I loved the romantic plot line with fill-in Bradley–it had me cracking up for the first half of the book, then fighting back tears for the second–the various subplots felt cliche. I never understood why Gia’s friends were so bitchy–or if it was just Gia’s neuroses getting in the way–and the plot line lacked believability. Since Gia’s issues with her friends were what drove her to the crazy fill-in boyfriend scheme in the first place, I felt like the foundation of the entire book was weak.

The family plot line was interesting–I was actually surprised when I realized that Gia’s perfect family life was actually pretty crappy–but the scene with her brother (if you’ve read the book you know what I’m talking about) was totally predictable. I saw it coming a mile away, and I didn’t really care for the way the subplot played out.

The Fill-In Boyfriend is a cute romance that dabbles in social commentary but dives in deep enough to lose the light-hearted mood. For such an entertaining premise, the book was a quick read, and I wish that there had been a few more scenes to break the plot out of the stereotypical YA romance template.

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