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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Pillai

a review of how to fake it in hollywood

(slight spoilers ahead!)

I requested this book as an ARC a while back, and it languished on my kindle for a long time (like a long time)––it wasn’t until about a week ago that I realized that the book was coming out soon, and I had yet to read it (school might be over, but that has not mean that I’ve stopped procrastinating haha).

I can’t quite pinpoint why I was so hesitant to pick this book up, but I think I was worried that the book would feel done-before, if that makes sense? It’s clearly a variation of the fake-dating trope, and I was nervous that it would feel like something I had already read ten times before; surprisingly, I didn’t really feel like this was a huge issue after I started reading.

Much to my shock, this book was relatively easy to get into––after the first few pages, I was flying through the story (well, up until the end).

The story follows Grey and Ethan––Grey is an actress who is struggling to get back into the game after the finish of her last show, and Ethan is somebody who is still dealing with the grief of his long-time best friend. He is trying to produce the last movie that he and his partner wrote together, but if he wants to do that, he will have to clean up his reputation and step back into the spotlight. As a solution, his agent suggests fake-dating Grey; this is a mutually beneficial solution––Ethan will clean up his image, and Grey will be able to get back into the spotlight…and things sort of take off from there.

I have a really hard time distinguishing how I feel about this book, mainly because so much was going on. I believe this was the author’s debut novel, and I hate to say it, but in some aspects, I feel like it really showed.

I was unable to connect with Grey (first of all, what kind of name is Grey?) as a character, which is unusual for me, since I usually tend to connect with the heroine’s more than the heroes. She felt very bland to me, and I could tell that strides were made to flesh her out as a character, but I ultimately felt that it was largely unsuccessful. I felt very detached from her, whilst reading.

I also just didn’t really buy into the romance? I never really understood why Grey and Ethan liked each other, and I didn’t feel like there was any banter that is typically present in a book of this nature. The first 50% of this story felt a little bit dry.

Another thing is, l felt like the book was hugely mis-marketed (or maybe it is just me?). Based on the cover, the synopsis and the comparison to The Unhoneymooners, I was largely expecting a light, banter-filled rom-com to read during the summer time, but this was really heavy? I sort of wish I had read the content warnings before-hand, because I felt a little bit blindsided. It’s not to say that the book was bad by any means, but it was startling, to say the least.

The book greatly deals with grief and alcoholism––and these two subject matters are the main reason for the heaviness of the book. I personally think Ava Wilder did a very realistic job depicting grief and alcoholism. Her illustration of alcohol abuse was real and raw and at times, very painful to read about––I can usually handle reading about addiction in books, however I tend to shy away from reading about alcohol abuse simply because of personal reasons, and the accuracy of which it was portrayed in this book, reminded me exactly why I do that.

I appreciated the way that Wilder showed alcohol abuse in every day life—it wasn’t over the top or flashy; it was subtle whilst simultaneously startling and her depiction of grief was just as impactful.

That being said, I don’t know that it fully worked in this book.

It was very difficult for me to root for the relationship when I could see the dark cloud of alcohol abuse hanging over them––it made me anxious throughout my whole reading experience. I think a part of the reason I wasn’t really rooting for their relationship, was that it was clear to see Ethan had a whole lot of baggage he needed to work through, before jumping in bed with someone. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good damaged hero, but he was damaged.

Another issue I had was that at times I forgot Ethan was supposed to be a dad? His kids were rarely ever mentioned, and the whole thing felt odd to me.

The book was also told in a weird type of third person––I don’t mind third person in general, but I fear that it may have contributed to why I felt so removed from the romance.

Lastly, the ending felt a little bit rushed to me, and Ethan’s recovery period felt way too glossed over…there is a weird time gap that I wasn’t a fan of and I can usually deal with a time gap of a few months (I don’t love it, but I can usually put up with it) however this one was sixteen months long. Yeah.

I don’t want to sound like I hate this book, because I don’t. I liked Ethan’s relationship with his ex-wife–-it was nice to see an ex that wasn’t completely the villain, and I was, in general, able to sympathize with Ethan and his struggles. I also appreciated the author's overall message that love is not always enough and it is not the solution to an addiction; it's an important message that we don't hear enough of in romance books. However, I didn’t really buy into the romance aspect of this book, and, well, this was supposed to be a romance book, wasn't it?

Overall, I wouldn't really recommend, to be honest.

Rating ➳ 2.5/5 stars

(tw: alcohol abuse, grief, death, child neglect)

(Thank you so much Netgalley for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!)


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