This Time It's Real by Ann Liang
Published: February 7th 2023 by Scholastic
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5)
Genre: Young Adult // Contemporary Romance
Quick Thoughts: I ate up the downright hilarious parts, fell in love with the characters and ways it held up marvellously to the fake-dating trope.
About The Book:
When seventeen-year-old Eliza Lin’s essay about meeting the love of her life unexpectedly goes viral, her entire life changes overnight. Now she has the approval of her classmates at her new international school in Beijing, a career-launching internship opportunity at her favorite magazine…and a massive secret to keep.
Eliza made her essay up. She’s never been in a relationship before, let alone in love. All good writing is lying, right?
Desperate to hide the truth, Eliza strikes a deal with the famous actor in her class, the charming but aloof Caz Song. She’ll help him write his college applications if he poses as her boyfriend. Caz is a dream boyfriend — he passes handwritten notes to her in class, makes her little sister laugh, and takes her out on motorcycle rides to the best snack stalls around the city.
But when her relationship with Caz starts feeling a little too convincing, all of Eliza’s carefully laid plans are threatened. Can she still follow her dreams if it means breaking her own heart?
Get ready to fall in love in this hilarious romcom about a girl who begins a fake relationship with the famous actor in her class, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Jenny Han.
I’ve been so excited to start this! Ever since I was offered the chance to read it, it’s been metaphorically staring at me on my TBR shelf and begging me to read it already. It has the sort of cover that screams springtime, too, so March seemed like the perfect time to dive into this sweet YA romance.
I finished this book with such a smile on my face. When we first get to know our MC Eliza, she’s one of those YA characters you just warm to automatically. She’s funny, down-to-earth, and has a passion for writing (just like me!) so I saw a lot of myself in her. She’s lived all over as her Mother has an important job and they move quite a bit, so she often finds herself without friends (except the one she video calls and misses the most) whenever she relocates into a new place.
After recently settling into Beijing, her essay about meeting the whirlwind love of her life goes pretty viral. Suddenly, with opportunities and coverage speedily everywhere, she has a heavy choice to make: fess up that there is no boy in her life, or find someone to be that faux-bf for a while. And when she finds the perfect fit—famous actor Caz—who just so happens to be her classmate at her fancy new school, it’s almost . . . fate. He needs help writing college applications, and she just so happens to be a writing expert. They strike up a trade, and the rest is history. Except when Caz starts feeling a little too perfect for the role of Eliza’s fake boyfriend—attentive, great with her little sister, and makes her feel adored—she begins to question everything. Does following her heart mean she has to give up her dreams—and if her perfect plans are on the line, what happens to the new reality she’s created when it’s all over?
Overall, This Time It’s Real got into my heart real fast. I ate up the downright hilarious parts, fell in love with the characters and ways it held up marvellously to the fake-dating trope. Eliza was such a likeable character and I adored how Ann wrote her family dynamic. There was just so much to love about it. I did find Eliza frustrating in some parts (but we’ve all been teenagers once!) and even though fake-dating isn’t the usual trope I lean into reading about, as a whole, this book was gorgeous. It kicked off my springtime beautifully, and is a very highly recommended read from me!
About The Author
Ann Liang is the author of If You Could See the Sun, This Time It’s Real, and the forthcoming I Am Not Jessica Chen. Born in Beijing, she grew up travelling back and forth between China and Australia, but somehow ended up with an American accent. When she isn’t writing, she can be found making over-ambitious to-do lists, binge-watching dramas, and having profound conversations with her pet labradoodle about who’s a good dog.