Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: ARC provided by publisher for review consideration
Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.
There’s just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.
Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior-year spring-break plans are ruined by a rule breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friendship feelings for him.
Hannah’s romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has one night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.
Tell Me More: Online friendships are a pretty big deal to me, considering that most of the longest and most meaningful friendships I have were ones that started over the internet. In Real Life surprised me with its take on online friendships and the way they change people, for better and for worse.
We’re introduced to Hannah Cho, a self-admitted “good” girl who doesn’t do much to rock the boat. Her vices are few, and her friendship with Nick is the most out-of-the-ordinary thing about her life. He’s a little harder to know, and I’ll admit that my appreciation of Nick is mostly based in the joy Hannah takes in his company. She opens up a little more, trusts in herself a little more, and it’s a delight to watch. Hannah is naive sometimes, and a little bit of a brat, but she’s also a teenager, and one who’s pushing past her comfort zone to do something she’s never really considered before. Notably, she’s also a Korean-American teenager, and while we don’t see a lot of that cultural influence play out in the novel, it’s refreshing to get an Asian character that doesn’t just struggle with her identity.
Her trip to Vegas is full of hijinks, misunderstandings, and romance, as one might expect, and it was the kind of story that pulled me in before I had time to realize it. While there were a few racially insensitive lines that made me pause, overall Jessica Love’s prose is snappy and energetic, keeping the reader engaged as Hannah starts to be a little bit more daring. It’s strange, you see, realizing the walls we keep around people, and Hannah has to navigate the utter lack of them around Nick. Her trust in him is tested, and shaken, and she finds herself re-evaluating the friendship they had and the relationship she wants over and over again throughout the book.
There’s a familiarity to that uncertain figurative dance that Hannah and Nick do with each other, where you realize that someone might know you better than you know yourself, and you have to decide if you’re okay with it. It’s a decision that can afford greater intimacy in both platonic and romantic relationships, but it’s not an easy one to make. Jessica Love affords them both the time and mistakes they need to make as they figure it out, and the journey is an definitely emotional one, but a journey worth taking all the same.
Jessica Love is a high school English teacher who lives in Southern California with her husband and their two tiny dogs. She’s working on her Master’s Degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Spalding University, and her big love is contemporary YA romance. Jessica spends all of her free money on concerts, constantly tries to prove that blondes have more fun, and is pretty much always on the internet.