Becky Dean’s sophomore novel, Picture-Perfect Boyfriend, is packed with intrigue from start to finish. From the ending of the first chapter, it hooked me.
Faking it for the Fam
All Kenzie Reed wants to do is immerse herself in nature with a camera around her neck. She’s put in the work—she’s done her research about photography and the nature she wants to capture. And yet, her steady, dependable family of optometrists still believe that she’s wasting her time. Finally worn down by the pressure, Kenzie agrees to become what her parents want: a responsible future optimist. To complete the picture, she invents a fake boyfriend, Jacob.
At least, she thought she invented him… until her family arrives in Hawaii for spring break, and who should greet them at the airport but Jacob himself! After this point, I couldn’t put the book down. A mystery man who knows everything about fake Jacob, but whom Kenzie really knows nothing about? Who could resist?!
As Kenzie and Jacob spend more time together, he refuses to share his secrets. However, he is nothing like the fake Jacob she created. He’s funny, clever, and he encourages her to pursue her passion with reckless abandon. If they really knew him, her parents would NOT approve. Which is totally fine, because they can’t be together for real. At the end of the trip, they’ll “pretend” to break-up and go their separate ways… right?
A Real Romance?
Except that Kenzie doesn’t want to break up with him anymore. In fact, she’s struggling to imagine life without him. How can she just say goodbye? But if they want to start dating for real, then she needs to tell her family the truth—and risk their inevitable, devastating judgment.
Kenzie’s story is deeply relatable for anyone who’s ever struggled with meeting parental expectations. Kenzie deeply loves her parents, so she hates to disappoint them. And yet… the more she leans in to her lies, the more she feels like she’s losing herself. Does she really want to pretend that she is something she’s not just to make her parents happy? I’ve asked myself the same question. Why can’t her parents just love her for who she is? I’ve asked myself that too! As someone with similar experiences, Kenzie’s emotions felt authentic. The story took a feeling that many of us struggle with and took it to the extreme–seeing a live, breathing manifestation of your lies right in front of you–with hilarious results.
As for Kenzie and Jack, I loved watching their relationship deepen as they got to know each other over the course of the story. It’s the fake dating trope at its best!
If you love Hawaiian destinations, dysfunctional families, and the fake dating trope, allow yourself to be sucked into Picture-Perfect Boyfriend. I recommend you read it on the beach, or poolside, at the very least.
Featured image courtesy of Penguin Random House