by Kasie West
Young adult, romance
Interest level: grade 7 and up
4 out of 5 stars
I got this book at the school book sale as I was looking for some reads to entice middle school readers who have limited time and are looking for something in the romance category. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of plot twists or deep thinking, but wanted a feel-good story that wasn’t focused on the sexual aspect of teen relationships. I am slightly surprised, and very happy to report, that The Fill-In Boyfriend was a winner in all categories.
The plot is pretty predictable. Gia’s college boyfriend dumps her in the parking lot before her senior prom, and that just won’t work for Gia. Not because she is particularly sad about losing Bradley, but because it won’t look good, and Gia is concerned with putting on a good face for the world. Gia spots a boy from another school dropping off his sister for the dance and talks him into being Fill-in Bradley so no one will know that she got dumped. Of course, the remainder of the story deals with Gia’s unexpected attraction to Fill-in Bradley.
What surprised me was how invested I was in Gia’s transformation. Kasie West has crafted a story with three main characters that I found to be well-developed and likable even with their character flaws. I would say that the other characters, outside Gia, Bec, and Hayden, are pretty stereotypical and one-dimensional, but that didn’t detract from the story. Gia’s transformation from someone who only cares about how she presents to the world to someone who would like to be able to express her true feelings openly is painful, and as a reader I really felt invested in hoping for a good outcome for this rather shallow person. I also absolutely loved the sibling relationship between Bec and Hayden.
Overall, this really is a great book for readers in 7th grade and up. It is romantic without being sexual and focuses on being true and genuine in life.