Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together.
After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time — and then they’ll be free.
It’s the perfect plan — except that it turns out maybe Mia and Jake don’t hate each other as much as they once thought …
Representation: Asian-American MC, single mothers, interracial relationship
Content warnings: (click to show)
brief fat-shaming, casual ableist language, ambiguous / possible infidelity
I received a copy of the book for the blog tour through Xpresso Book Tours; however, this does not affect my rating or opinions expressed.
Be still my heart, this is such an adorable read.
I’m a huge fan of childhood friends (in general, but also potentially becoming romantic partners) and frenemies / enemies to lovers and fake dating, so the punny title and straightforward synopsis had me hooked — and the actual story certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s pretty much exactly what it says on the metaphorical tin, and I mean that in the best possible way.
We’re going to date so we won’t have to date. To no more Sunday brunches.
This story really comes to life in the details. From the mouthwatering Sunday brunch dim sum spreads to Jake’s very specific knowledge of Mia’s allergies, Nguyen fills in enough that you really get to know the characters and understand their lives, and feel like you’re really there witnessing what’s happening, though not so much that the book feels like a series of tangents or info dumps.
Although there are lots of embarrassing and/or cute childhood stories, the main focus is very much on the present — figuratively speaking, because the story is told in first-person past tense, alternating between Mia and Jake. The dual POV is well executed; Mia and Jake each have a distinct voice, and it’s delightful to watch them gradually realize their feelings toward each other are changing.
I’d forgotten that Mia was a snuggler. Ever since we were kids. During naptime in kindergarten, she would always roll from her mat onto mine. Every single time.
And the interpersonal relationships, the arguable heart of this story? Pure gold. I literally laughed out loud at the banter between Mia and Jake, their easy camaraderie despite their alleged mutual dislike even before their scheme begins. If you’ve seen that meme questioning the compatibility of a Great Romance (“Sure, your love could level cities and defy fate … but do you even like each other?”), I’m pleased to tell you that this is not the case here. For all their protesting, Mia and Jake have learned to coexist. They have an Established Dynamic.
And they each have pretty solid relationships with their mothers — not perfect of course, since a) they’re teenagers and b) their mothers ship them with their “mortal enemy” — which I always wish I saw more of in YA. Although I’d have a hard time avoiding spoilers if I wanted to talk more about how awesome the moms are, believe me, they are amazing.
On top of all this, Mia and Jake each have strong friendships to turn to, and get along well with each other’s friends. If I had dated in high school, my closest friends’ opinions of my partner would certainly have mattered to me, and I know they’re the ones who would be there for me if / when my love life went sideways; so it’s always been important to me that YA protagonists have support systems outside of their love interest(s). Mia’s and Jake’s friends are wonderfully encouraging, especially when pushing them outside their comfort zones (and urging them to admit that they’re in loooooooooove).
“You shouldn’t be so sarcastic this early in the morning. It’s bad for your digestion.”
Naturally you can’t discuss a romance without talking about the chemistry. I’ve already mentioned the playful teasing between Mia and Jake, but there’s also a strong foundation of trust and shared experiences. (Have I mentioned how much I like friends to lovers as a trope?) And in certain scenes I could really feel the sparks fly between them … in a PG-13 way, with no explicit sexual content.
Which is no small feat, because with too many YA romances
or even some explicit adult books, I don’t feel anything at all while I’m reading scenes intended to be romantic. But again, that’s not the case with Fake It Till You Break It.
My life had suddenly officially turned into a K-drama.
I absolutely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone who enjoys a fun, cute contemporary YA novel, as long as you don’t mind that it follows a well-worn literary path (i.e., that there aren’t many major surprises in store). There’s a great mix of sweet moments and bitter drama, the characters are incredibly likable and relatable, and seriously, I was smiling for most of the time I was reading this book.
Quotes were taken from an Advance Review Copy and may change upon publication.