Oakley Ford is sort of Harry Stiles(ish) for me. He is a conceited rock star who has been famous since the age of 14 and likes to indulge and party at every chance. Now at 19, he wants to have his music taken more seriously but it won’t be easy to clean up his image. His “people” decide a fake relationship with a normal girl will be just the thing to turn this perception around and get him back in the good graces of fans and music executives. Enter Vaughn. She’s had to mature very fast to help her family stay afloat and that’s exactly why she takes on the job of Oakley’s girlfriend when it’s offered.
So there isn’t a lot of original in the basic structure of this plot, and there’s even quite a bit of cliché. But somehow along the way I stopped caring and I just started enjoying. Oakley definitely won my heart a lot faster than Vaughn did. Seeing behind the curtain of Hollywood and how things are not always what they seem on social media was so much fun and gave you exactly what you needed to see through Oak. I understood the lonely position he felt he was in, boxed in by his past actions and by his music, not really able to be who he wanted to be, to be respected and looked at ass a serious artist or even to trust his friends. That jerk exterior suddenly just felt like his armor and I couldn’t help but love him for it. Jerkish ways and all.
Vaughn, like I said, I didn’t warm up to as fast. I’m not sure why because she seems like a girl with a good head on her shoulders. But I didn’t “love” her. I do think she has great chemistry and banter with Oak. I also think the author did a great job at still making her act and feel her age even though she’s been dealt a hand that makes her grow up much faster. She still deals with the insecurities and life questions that anyone at her age should be dealing with and her reactions to things do make sense for her age as well. And as a bonus, I didn’t want to murder her because of all her teenage angst.
I can’t compare this to the other Erin Watt books since I haven’t read them but I have a feeling this falls more in the young adult genre than their other work. I am here to tell you I’m a little surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Contemporary Young Adult is not really my thing, I usually find the characters quite annoying and my eyes end up hurting from rolling them so much. The premise of this story could’ve been a disaster for me. But I trusted the author, went in with a good attitude and was so pleasantly surprised that I shocked myself. I might’ve even texted a few friends while reading this and after finishing it asking them how was it possible that I so into it!
WHEN IT’S REAL is a fun-filled story. Perfectly light and addictive to read by the pool this summer. I just ate it up so fast I think you might as well and just fall in love with the little brat rock star hero just like I did.