Publication date: February 10, 2015. It’s out just in time for Valentine’s Day.
The Story: Tomboy, Toni Valentine, would take horror movies, monster hunts and burping contests with her three male best friends, Lock, Cowboy and Ollie, over high heels and makeup any day. But when a summer prank goes wrong, Toni is sent to the Winston Academy for Girls, and it turns out Hell looks a lot like a place where you wear a plaid skirt, and learn to be ladylike.
At her new school Toni meets Emma, a girl with boyfriend troubles. Trying to bond with her first female friend, Toni volunteers one of her male BFFs as a pretend date to make Emma’s boyfriend jealous. When word spreads across the school about Toni’s access to good-looking guys, Toni and Emma form a Rent-A-Gent service. It’s a plan that can’t end well, not when Toni is secretly in love with Lock, the company’s most sought-after escort.
The good: This book didn’t make the mistake of focusing all the attention on the crush. Yes, Toni wants to understand her first brush with teen love, but she’s also mindful of losing her best friend by changing the terms of their relationship. Toni worries about school, her friends problems and her uncertain relationship with her new stepfather. I appreciated the author’s efforts to round out Toni’s character, and to create a history for all three boys. Also, this book looks like a standalone, something that makes me happy. I’m getting sick of books that don’t have a resolution at the end.
The bad: The characters are all seniors in high school, immersed in the big rush to get admitted into a prestigious university, yet everyone in the story reads younger. A lot younger! I would have found these characters more believable as sixteen-year-olds. The story gets slow in the last third, but by then I was firmly invested and wanted to see it to the end.
I enjoyed this book, which says a lot since contemporary YA romance is not my first choice as a genre. It earned four stars on Goodreads from me. It was a quick, lighthearted read, with interesting supporting characters and a solid, if predictable, plot. If you’re looking for a contemporary YA romance, this is a good pick. Frankly, I liked it better than Isla and the Happily Ever After and just as much as This Is What Happy Looks Like. Although there is a small amount of underage drinking, and the mention (no descriptions) of sex, I would still give this book a PG13 rating, making it suitable for younger teen readers.
Disclaimer: NetGalley provided me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.