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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?
ARC received for review purposes in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I’m not a fan of famous people in books. I don’t know. It’s just so hard for me to connect with them for some reason, and the drama always seems to stem from their celebrity status. Nevertheless, having enjoyed Erin Watt’s The Royals series, I was eager to get to When It’s Real. I loved this book and wound up absolutely devouring the story. It’s certainly different in tone from The Royals, and instead of a book with dark, mature theme, Erin Watt gifts readers with a sweet romance that will have your hearts fluttering in joy.
When It’s Real is told from the voices of Vaughn and Oakley and I found both of them to be very likable. Vaughn, especially, was a sweetheart. There was an endearing quality to her character that made reading through her POV pleasant. Her big heart, her loyalty to her family and her genuineness truly made the story exceptional for me. She wasn’t just sweet though, there were many added layers to her personality. I especially enjoyed when her more fiery side emerged, especially around Oakley. The girl knew how to stand her ground, and defend herself, and I loved that about her. Oakley, on the other hand, was a little harder for me at first. I was unsure of what his motivations were, but as the story progressed, and we got to see the boy within the superstar exterior, I found myself loving his character. He might have been rich and famous and had all the girls throwing themselves at him, but he didn’t have the one thing every kid deserves to have, affectionate parents. He struggles with his relationship with his parents in the book, and it’s heartbreaking to read about his desires. Thankfully, he finds a surrogate family in Vaughn’s family.
The relationship between Oakley and Vaughn was a fake-dating that turns into more romance, a trope that I think needs to be more popular in YA. It was very thoughtfully done, and even though Vaughn has a boyfriend, she and Oakley don’t cheat or fall for each other while she’s still in the relationship. Their relationship was initially full of snippy comments, and antagonism, but they slowly find companionship with one another, and it was the best. The kisses were swoony, and the softer more emotional moments between Oakley and Vaughn were adorable. I totally shipped it! I thought the addition of Vaughn’s siblings was also really well done here. It’s only her sister, Paisley and her twin brothers – they lost their parents in an accident. They love, camaraderie, and pure joy that existed between these siblings made me so happy. We also get a pretty awesome secondary character in Oakley’s bodyguard, Ty, who surprisingly develops his own sweet romance in the book with Paisley. If Erin Watt wants to write their book, I wouldn’t complain one bit!
Once again, Erin Watt has written a book that’s addicting, swoony and entertaining from start to finish. I have no doubt YA contemporary fans will fall for these characters. I’m excited to see what else they have up their sleeves!