Book Review: When It’s Real by Erin Watt

Title: When It’s Real
Author: Erin Watt
Reviewer: Grace
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 416 pages
Rating: 3.5 Stars


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?
Grace Review

A sweet enemies-to-friends-to-more story about living up to expectations and obligations vs.seeking a future to achieve personal happiness. All while finding that fake love has never felt so good.

If there is one piece of advice I could give, is that if this is not your first Erin Watt book, going into it with a fresh mind. While this is YA like the Royals, there are hardly any other similarities, so don’t expect the same pace and drama. If you haven’t read any of their books, this book is true to the genre – a slow burn with an endearing couple who are plagued with insecurities.

Have you ever wondered how much of the Hollywood drama and coupledoms (Bennifer) are real vs. a publicity stunt? This book tackles that subject, with a relationship that begins under a very fake setting, and morphs into something else along the way.

On the surface, Oakley Ford is your typical egomaniac performer, who believes the world revolves around him. Whether it was the author(s) intention, I kept thinking of Justin Bieber’s rise to fame and missteps along the way. This story picks up with Ford’s career in a standstill – no new music, several scandals, and falling popularity. So his PR team cooks up a fake relationship with a “normal” girl to build a more wholesome image for him. Vaughn is that girl.

“The good ones put your character to the flame and burn away all the rest of the shit until you come out a better you. She’s one of the good ones.”

I felt bad for Vaughn’s circumstances. Her parents have passed and her family is struggling to make ends meet. Given her current relationship status, she does a very selfless thing to help, putting financial security before love. But as a reader, I kept hoping that one circumstance would lead her back to that place. I will warn you that while that may happen, it takes time. As I noted to before, I would consider this a slow burn, and given Vaughn’s innocence and the genre, I had no problem with that.

“I’m good at pretending, but not so great at living.”

As an adult reader, you have to get in a special mindset when reading YA. While I have matured over the years (hopefully), the characters have not. They are insecure, no matter how much fame and money they have. They crave acceptance and praise, but not in a fake way. That made this story intriguing, as Oakley constantly struggled to win Vaughn’s admiration, in an honest way, not because she was being paid. On the flip side, Vaughn is aware that this isn’t Oakley first rodeo with a fake relationship. How can she believe it is real?

This book is about the path the two take from fake to real, and how that path takes them both to a happier place, personally and professionally. There isn’t as much drama as I would have expected, until the last 10%, and the angst was minimal, imo.

If you are looking for a light Hollywood love story, check this one out.

– Grace

*An ARC was received for an honest review.

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