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?
Erin Watt has created yet another sweet and completely captivating romance in When It’s Real, which takes place in the world of celebrities, fame, and fortune, where reality is harsh and love is impossible.
Oakley and Vaughn’s characters were from completely different worlds, but I genuinely felt for them equally in where they were coming from in their lives. They were both so complex and had such difficult pasts to deal with … Poor Oakley (I love the name by the way) was so damaged and had completely shut down his feelings and hope for real happiness. Being so successful and at such a young age, he should seemingly have everything he could ever want. However, he had constantly been let down in life. Only his music nurtured his soul, and when he lost the ability to create nothing was left but anger and resentment.
Vaughn was sweet, simple, and appreciative. She lived wrapped up in the warmth, support, and love of her younger brothers and older sister. Desperately holding on tight to her past and the unexpected loss of both of her parents, Vaughn is kind of stuck in a holding pattern of complacency, not really knowing or really particularly looking for her place and direction in life. She would do anything for her family and is only concerned about living up to what she perceives everyone’s expectations of her to be.
Oakley and Vaughn were incredibly strong-willed and stubborn, and they struggled so much with their fears in life. Oakley, with his fear of never having a real life where someone could actually love the real person and not just the celebrity persona, and Vaughn, afraid to take a chance and live her life for herself and not the way she believed everyone thought she should. They both had almost completely shut out their feelings to future possibilities in order to protect themselves from their fears.
Oakley and Vaughn’s relationship transitioned quite naturally in the story and was certainly fun and entertaining to follow! Although it was understandable, due to being thrown into their fake relationship together, they were both just completely awful to each other in the beginning. Their dislike for both their situation and each other was certainly immense. However, their banter was really witty as the two battled and eventually began to understand each other, find common ground, and build a friendship. They really were a great balance for each other and their insecurities. The flow of their relationship grew so naturally and effortlessly, and the slow buildup of sexual tension between them was perfectly paced and certainly palpable. The only element that seemed a little off to me was regarding the timing of Vaughn giving Oakley the one thing she had never given ‘W’… I understood her feelings were totally different toward Oakley and he wasn’t pushy about it, but it just caught me off guard and seemed a little early in their relationship.
The story had many meaningful secondary characters who were very real, authentic, and true to their roles and whose presence definitely made an impact in the story. Vaughn’s friends and family were so supportive, and I really enjoyed the warmth and fun banter they all shared. King’s character also stood out in particular to me as a necessary role model to Oakley, with his voice of wisdom and experience in the industry. He wasn’t going to fluff feathers for anyone and called a spade a spade, and I really felt that Oakley needed someone like that in his life to look up to and show him some type of positive direction and support in his career.
The musician and celebrity lifestyle was conveyed so well in this story, and it was very interesting to know more about the inner workings of the industry, as well as the personal effects of it. Honestly, I haven’t ever really put much thought into how violating it could feel for celebrities when their fans overstep their personal boundaries. Seeing the flipside of it with the negative tweets from the fans and their overall behavior and criticism for their lives was incredibly sad, and I just can’t imagine that lifestyle. I felt so sympathetic to Oakley, in his lack of any kind of normalcy in his life, as well as Vaughn, in seeing how his celebrity status also affected her own. I think the social media included in the story with the tweets, Instagram, etc. also really helped to convey how out of hand fans can be with their character attacks and even with the simplest acts like getting ice cream.
This duo can certainly write! This suspenseful and unique storyline just pulled me in like a spider to its prey. The story wasn’t overly angsty, and it had just the right amount to remain light-hearted yet keep me wrapped up and engaged all the way through. The dual point of views really helped to submerge deeper into the true feelings and challenges that Oakley and Vaughn faced, and I just couldn’t resist turning page after page to see what would happen next with this complex couple. I also want to mention that I thought their marketing for this book was really good as well. I know this was in the Young Adult genre and maybe that’s why, but I was especially happy to see a cover that was unique and not yet another half-naked hot guy!
I truly enjoyed and loved Oakley and Vaughn’s romantic journey. It was incredibly sweet and the conclusion really did leave me with the shivers. Although the story had a perfect ending, I honestly really didn’t want this one to end!
‘You’re the one person in my life who wants nothing but me and it’s terrifying and awesome at the same time. Don’t ever leave me. I love you. You’re my heart.’
*** 4.5 Stars for Me! ***
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*** ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange of an honest review ***
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