When It's Real by Erin Watt
Under ordinary circumstances, Oakley Ford and Vaughn Bennett would never even cross paths.
There's nothing ordinary about Oakley. This bad-boy pop star's got Grammy Awards, millions of fangirls and a reputation as a restless, too-charming troublemaker. But with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley needs to show the world he's settling down—and who better to help him than Vaughn, a part-time waitress trying to help her family get by? The very definition of ordinary.
Posing as his girlfriend, Vaughn will overhaul Oakley's image from troublemaker to serious artist. In return for enough money to put her brothers through college, she can endure outlandish Hollywood parties and carefully orchestrated Twitter exchanges. She'll fool the paparazzi and the groupies. She might even start fooling herself a little.
19-year-old Oakley Ford has a problem. He hasn't brought out a new album in two years and he's losing followers on social media by the thousands. He's dying to change his sound and work with his dream producer but all the producer sees is another pop star who isn't serious about music or life.
Insert Vaughn Bennett - a regular girl who's just trying to work hard to help support her family after her parents died two years earlier in a car wreck. Oakley's PR team have thought of the perfect solution - a made-for-publicity relationship with a "normal" girl so people will start thinking he's getting serious about life and music again. Vaughn is hesitant. She has a boyfriend, W, who she adores even if he is pressuring her to have sex with him. And okay, she can't stand the stupid Youtube videos W and his friends make. But they want her to pretend date Oakley Ford - the guy who cheated on his last "girlfriend?" Are these people crazy? But when Vaughn hears what Oakley's management team are willing to pay her she has no choice. Her family needs the money.
Everything has been carefully planned - from Vaughn's fake breakup with W to her meet-cute with Oakley on Twitter to the beginnings of an unbelievable-if-it-weren't-true romance - except for one thing: Vaughn and Oakley can't stand each other. Oakley can't believe he's stuck with the one girl in the world not falling at his feet and Vaughn thinks Oakley is an arrogant self-entitled jerk. This will never work. Or will it work too well?
When what starts out as a carefully orchestrated publicity stunt begins to turn into the real thing, will Vaughn and Oakley's relationship survive the Hollywood fishbowl of paparazzi, online haters, and fame whores looking to sully Vaughn's name to make one for themselves? Or will Oakley's fame tear them apart?
At first, I was afraid I wouldn't like When It's Real as much as I've loved Erin Watt's Royals series. I was afraid Oakley was being made out to be like a Justin Bieber-type, but as I allowed myself to dive deeper into Oakley and Vaughn's story I realized I couldn't be more wrong. I loved When It's Real, every single minute of it!
While Vaughn did slightly remind me of Ella from the Royals Series, I found her struggle to balance friends, work, relationships, and helping her sister Paisley care for their younger brothers to be genuine and relatable.
Oakley, meanwhile, transformed from a self-absorbed jerk into a decent guy as he began falling for Vaughn and I loved his friendship with Ty and the way he, with Vaughn's help, began to mend his rocky relationship with his mother. Erin Watt portrayed what we sometimes forget about celebrities: that they're just people too. People that make mistakes and deserve some sense of privacy. What they do for a living doesn't mean we have the right to invade every aspect of their life and the normal things we take for granted are things they rarely get to truly enjoy.
I easily fell for Vaughn and Oakley, enjoying the chemistry they tried to deny, hurting for Vaughn as she dealt with W - who was a total creep - and when the trolls on social media said horrible things about her and celebrating with both of them as they fell in love and learned from each other about what really mattered.
Overall, if you love hate-to-love romances with a dash of humor and characters that will ruin you (in a good way), When It's Real is a contemporary young adult novel that you'll definitely want to toss in your beach bags and take with you this summer because you won't want to put it down!
4.5 of 5 Stars!
When It's Real is available today, May 30, 2017, from Harlequin Teen! Grab your copy now: