THIS TIME IT’S REAL, by Ann Liang, Scholastic Press, Feb. 7, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult)
A girl starts up a fake relationship with a famous actor in Anna Liang’s new YA rom-com, This Time It’s Real.
When 17-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? —Synopsis provided by Scholastic Press
This Time It’s Real is a bright read that you won’t want to put down. Author Anna Liang’s comfortable tone pairs flawlessly with this genre.
Told from Eliza’s point of view, readers are immediately immersed in a world of knowns and unknowns. Eliza’s family moves every couple of years, and she hasn’t lived in China in 12 years. Through her eyes, readers get to experience the land she rediscovers. Through her, readers also get to know Caz.
Eliza and Caz appear to be opposites. Caz is famous and outgoing. Eliza easily disappears in a crowd. But they both have vulnerabilities, hopes and dreams that bookend enough to make them a strong match. Eliza’s voice rings true from beginning to end, and it’s not hard to see why she falls for her fake boyfriend.
This Time It’s Real is a pitch-perfect rom-com that calls to mind works by Meg Cabot and Jenny Han. It’s light-hearted, sweet and a great escape. I read it in one sitting, and I can’t wait to discover more from this author.
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Ha ha, the fake dating trope: I can’t get enough of it! I just read Ann Liang’s If You Could See the Sun, and really enjoyed it—she’s a good writer. (No fake dating in that one though!)