Title: In Real Life
Author: Jessica Love
Published: March 1, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Source: I was provided this eARC from St. Martin’s via Netalley in return for an honest review.
Rating: Three stars
Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.
There’s just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.
Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Las Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.
Hannah’s surprise romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.
Cover Thoughts: I like the cover, but I would have liked it more if there was a bigger music focus in the book.
First Line: Friday
My best friend and I have never met.
~Why I Wanted To Read~
I have had high hopes for In Real Life since last year. A story involving two teens who have been friends for years but never met? Yeah, that is right up my alley.
I loved being sent face first into Hannah and Nick’s friendship. It came across really natural.
So, now that you know about my high hopes, I’m sad to say that I didn’t love this as much as I thought I would. I suppose it had my self induced hype to live up to, which could have had something to do with it. The characters didn’t exactly work for me. There was one thing that I didn’t particularly like at all, but it could just be a “me” thing.
“Well, that too. But I was thinking rules are made to be broken.”
Yeah, that is what people say, but it goes against my Good Korean Girl DNA. Rules are meant to be followed–at least that’s what my parents, who aren’t Tiger Parents or anything but are still pretty serious, drilled into me starting the second I learned to crawl.
We first meet Hannah who is Korean and an overall good girl. She doesn’t take risks, and she’s hesitant and trustworthy. In Real Life seemed to play up Hannah’s obedient behavior to her being Korean, which was a little stereotypical to me. There was nothing shown to Hannah’s culture besides the fact that she’s well behaved and basically a perfect daughter. Then we have Hannah’s sister, Grace and Hannah’s best friend, Lo. Grace writes for a music website and is the rebellious daughter. Lo is Mexican and nothing about that was really brought up either.
To no surprise, both of these characters are Hannah’s outgoing opposites. I felt this was very formulaic in the story. It always seems like the main character is quiet, reserved and the basic good girl. This annoyed me because it seems to just be a common trope and I hate that.
While the supporting characters, in this case, Grace and Lo are the sort of rebellious ones who nudge Hannah into doing things she wouldn’t do. Grace and Lo are both convinced that there’s more going on between Hannah and Nick than she lets on, given they only know the basics. This causes Lo to wonder if Nick is even legit and who could blame her? I could relate so much to Hannah in this aspect. I certainly keep my longest, closest “online” friendship hidden from the majority of people, especially with details. Grace and Lo do some actions later in the book which made me shake my head a little given circumstances.
Of course, secrets are revealed when Hannah meets Nick. One of these secrets is the character Frankie. I liked Frankie, for a change she wasn’t a cliche mean girl who was “in the way” of the possible new relationship. Frankie is a bit famous in Vegas, she runs a popular blog for teens where she shares cool places for teens to go. Due to this, Frankie gets recognized everywhere as she goes along with Hannah and the gang. I liked Frankie quite a bit, which was surprising. When Hannah meets Frankie, she wants to hate her, but can’t, because Frankie’s so nice. I hated how whiny she was when it came to Frankie.I thought there was a bit of slut-shaming going on with Hannah’s thoughts towards Frankie. This was actually seen quite a few times. It really bothered me how much Hannah obsessed about it. I didn’t like that at all, but I guess they are real thoughts after all.
A couple examples of that:
I don’t want to like her. I want to punch her in the face. I want to make her disappear so I never have to look at her funky style and big ol’ boobs ever again.
“So you’re just going to let Frankie win? Just like that? Because she has a huge rack and knows some loser roadies from the Killers and gets free cheesecake?”
As for Nick, I liked his character. I didn’t feel connected to him much, but I thought he realistically handled some things. I bought his relationship with Hannah for sure. I felt like I got to know him well enough in the book. He did lie a bit about things, but I’m not sure if I blame him or not given they were small things. It was still sucky though for Hannah.
“I’d let my mind wander to off-limits territory of us, together.”
Hannah, Grace and Lo go to Vegas on a whim to see Nick’s band perform play. Things really kick off when that happens and some things are made known. There was some wish-fulfillment in In Real Life. I didn’t like that very much, but I guess it made the story more compelling? I don’t really know. There’s some gambling done, a little bit of drinking done, running in and out of casinos, not to mention quite a large sum of money obtained. . . I feel like in Vegas, the gambling city of the world, as far as I know, would be a bit strict about this.
This little get together with Hannah, Nick, Grace, Lo and Frankie though soon expands to include Nick’s brother an another band member. Wouldn’t you know it, three (technically two) guys, so it’s now three girls and three guys. I’m sure you can read between the lines. This was a little too convenient for my liking, but I’ll shake that off as I have a bigger issue of sorts.
Hannah and Nick talk a lot in one night, which makes sense given that this is the first night they’re really meeting. However, I wasn’t completely okay with some of their discussions or actions. I felt there was quite bit of emotional cheating in here which I just hate. I thought Frankie was being betrayed, I didn’t like Hannah and Nick for talking so deeply as they had. I’m sure not everyone will see it that way though, which is fine. It had just bothered me quite a bit.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)
Things I Liked:
- Feels – This book hit me hard with all kind of nostalgia and even current feelings. I’ve had a close friend online since I was 14 and we’ve been talking for almost nine years. Due to this, I really loved the relationship between Hannah and Nick. I have had so many of the same thoughts that Hannah has.
- Flashbacks – The flashbacks helped me see how their relationship was, which was nice. I only wish that there had been even more flashbacks in the story.
- True To Life – I loved that their relationship expanded beyond instant messaging and went to texting, calling, webcam and even mailing packages. Their relationship was pretty true to life for me.
- Frankie’s Blogging – As a blogger, I could really relate to her passion for her blog. It was interesting to see how it impacted her relationship in real life with Nick.
- Setting – They’re in Vegas, one of the most action-packed places ever. The city that never sleeps and has a lot of possibilities for a magical online meeting. It was fun to read about Vegas and I thought it got the atmosphere across well, though I’ve never been there.
Some Negative Things:
- Passive MC + Outgoing, Rebellious Side Characters – There’s the cliche of the good girl MC who has to have rebellious characters to nudge her along. Besides their nudging, they don’t do much else. When they do do something, Hannah gets upset because they weren’t there for her. I can agree with her feeling said, but I thought she was being a little selfish.
- Slut Shaming – While Hannah never calls Frankie a slut, there is a lot of slut shaming. Most of this revolves around Frankie’s breast size. There’s the thought that Frankie attracted Nick with her breast size. I despised these thoughts, no matter how “realistic” they can be.
- Frankie’s Portrayal – Frankie was made out to be the enemy to Hannah because of her relationship with Nick. She seemed to be “less than” because she was outgoing and confident and of course, her breast size. I hated how Hannah disliked her based off first impressions and who she was.
- Emotional Cheating – I touched on this above, but I hate emotional cheating. There was a lot of that in In Real Life. Occasionally it went further than emotional cheating which just made me silently rage and shake my head.
Overall, I did enjoy In Real Life. I liked the set up, but the execution could have been better. Frankie was such a bright part, but again, much like Lo and Grace, she had to be Hannah’s opposite. Hannah could have been fleshed out more really beyond her good girl persona. It was so interesting to see how an actual meeting between two online friends plays out in real life. That was really fun to read about. I thought the ending was cute, though too fast given all of the circumstances. This was a cute read though.
(Taken from ARC, Subject to Change)
I do wish we could go to the movies together or something normal like that, but we watch the same movies at the same time and mock them over video chat, which is pretty much the same thing.
It never feels like our conversations are over when we say good-bye. I always think of a hundred other things I want to say after I hit End on my screen, but I save it all for later, because there’s always a later with me.
And there have been times, especially recently, where a lyric struck me in such a deep way that I wished it were Nick who had written it, and that he’d written it just for me. It was an unusual thought, because that’s not how things are between us. Not at all. But there’s something about the music that takes my head to strange places.
And then there was the possibility we would meet in person and not even like each other. What if we didn’t get along? What if our differences, which were fun and interesting on the phone, were too much to bridge in real life? Meeting meant risking our friendship the way it was, and I wasn’t sure I could handle that.
How could I explain to her that despite everything that happened tonight, he is still my best friend? That I can’t just turn off four years of friendships like a light switch.
My best friend and I have never met. We talk every day, on the phone or online, and he knows more about me than anyone. Like, deep into my soul. But we’ve never actually seen each other in real life.
~Do I Recommend?~
~Who Do I Recommend It To?
Fans of long distance relationships
Fans of short timespan novels
~Would I Buy It?~
~Would I Reread It?~