Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: 1 star
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.
Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.
With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.
Debut author Tiffany Pitcock delivers a spot-on depiction of first love and the high school rumor mill in Just Friends, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads.
What I Liked:
This is one of those times in which I feel so bad for giving the book a poor rating. I am not a YA contemporary fan but I thought for sure that I would enjoy this book. I love the bad boy/good girl trope, and I love the friends-to-lovers trope. You all know me and romance - I adore romance - and with those two romance tropes in this book, I thought this would be a great book for me. This was not the case.
The book started off just fine though. Jenny and Chance were never friends or acquaintances, but they are classmates. On the first day of the new school year, Jenny and Chance are paired in an icebreaker assignment, to interview each other about one thing they did over the summer and share the interviews to the class. Chance comes up with the brilliant idea to pretend that he and Jenny have been childhood friends since they were little. It works! Suddenly everyone thinks they have been best friends (even though they never acted like they even knew each other before that day). It almost makes sense - the most charming, popular, wanted boy in cool, friends with the quiet, innocent, nerdy, unpopular girl. But both Jenny and Chance start to develop feelings for each other - and they hide those feelings, because they each think the other doesn't feel the same way. What follows is a story of heartbreak and comfort, with humor and a little bit of swoon.
I liked Chance, though I wasn't really understanding how he is classified as a "bad boy" (I'll explore that thought below). He is going through a lot at home, and my heart hurt for him. The adults in his life are terrible people. It's no wonder he held on to his and Jenny's fake (turned real) best friends status. He needed comfort in his lonely world, despite being such a popular and well-liked guy. He has a reputation for being popular with the ladies, but he is honest and upfront about things. Except telling Jenny how he feels about her.
Jenny... I liked her at first, but grew to dislike her a little. Which then made me feel conflicted because she didn't technically do anything "wrong". More on that below. I liked Jenny when she was sweet and naive - not when she was trying to fool herself of this or that.
The ending was a happily-ever-after for Chance and Jenny, which I loved.
What I Did Not Like:
Honestly I think most people who enjoy YA contemporary will love this book (maybe). I didn't, and that's fine, but I don't think my dislike of the book will be a general thing.
My biggest issue was the romance, and Jenny (well, that's two issues). I hated the romance. Jenny and Chance are literally "just friends" or the entire book (until the very last few pages). Now, this wouldn't be so bad except for two things: (1) they fall for each other early on (and want to be with the other), and (2) Jenny starts dating someone else.
You're probably like, whaaaaaat????
Let me explain (and be aware, you might consider these spoilers). Jenny realizes that she has a crush on her new best friend fairly early on. They actually kiss - Jenny has never kissed anyone, and Chance dared her to kiss him. After the kiss, the next day, Jenny starts dating someone else. But even just before the kiss, Jenny knows she likes Chance a lot. After the kiss, she really wants to be with him. For Chance, after the kiss, he realizes that he wants to ask Jenny out and be together. And yet, the next day, Jenny blows a thing out of proportion, and agrees to go on a date with this other guy. A guy that she doesn't really like.
This is when I started to hate Jenny. She has never kissed a boy (until that dare with Chance), or went on a date, or had sex, etc. So when Drake asks her on a date, she says yes. And she goes on more dates with him. And eventually has sex with him (it seems like multiple times - they are boyfriend/girlfriend and very serious, for much of the second half of the book). Nothing is particularly wrong with this EXCEPT that Jenny is deluding herself. She is so stuck on trying to have the perfect relationship, be the perfect girlfriend, and check all of these boxes to say that she has done them. She thinks she cares about Drake but she doesn't. She's with him but thinking of Chance. She is Drake's girlfriend but she wants Chance, leans on Chance, thinks about Chance.
Do you see why I hated this book, the romance, and Jenny? I hate people who fool themselves. I hate people who want this one thing so badly, they don't care who they hurt in the process (in this case, both Chance and Drake). It's not like Jenny is trying to hurt anyone on purpose - she is too naive to realize that (1) Chance is in love with her, and (2) she is fooling herself into thinking that she must be in a relationship with Drake.
It's so fake. And I couldn't stand it.
I hated seeing Chance pine from a distance. And yet he was always there for Jenny, every step of the way. Jenny is an awful girlfriend and an even worse friend. Chance has so many negativity going on at home, and Jenny often puts his problems last. Again, she is so focused on checking off this box and that box. She is a terrible friend to Chance. And a terrible girlfriend, for constantly thinking about another boy, and for (unknowingly) stringing Drake along.
Also? I don't condone Jenny hitting Chance. Violence (whether girl-on-guy, guy-on-girl, guy-on-guy, girl-on-girl) really isn't something to promote. Chance gets into a legit fight with Drake and seriously? That was so cliche and disgusting. Can we not. I went through four years of high school and a grand total of fourteen years of public school, and I never saw any two people fighting over a girl (or guy). Can. We. Not.
So. Love triangle, emotional cheating (on Jenny's part), messy drama (when Drake and Jenny break up). Don't misunderstand - Jenny never cheats on Drake with Chance. Chance never cheats on anybody because he never dates Jenny or anyone in this book (he goes out with a lot of girls, but he never dates, until the very end with Jenny). Jenny likes to judge Chance for all of his "relationships" with all of the girls, but she has no right. If she had wanted to be with him so badly, she should have spoken up. She should have asked him out. She should have told him how she felt. Instead, she misunderstood one thing, ran away like a coward, and wasted months of time with a boy she didn't like, and felt pressured to have sex with. That part drove me crazy! She was so stingy about her virginity in the beginning of the book, and then when she and Drake have a big argument, she throws her virginity out of the window in order to convince him that she wants him. Spoiler alert: she wants the idea of him (a boyfriend). What a waste.
Look, y'all. I don't really care if the heroine has sex with 5453454 guys. (Well, I would care if she is having sex with them WHILE dating the hero.) Sex positivity is a good thing, in YA and in general. I'm not a fan of heroines who throw away their virginity or have sex for a stupid reason or use sex to manipulate someone. I'm not a fan of the fact that Jenny deliberately started (seriously) dating someone when she was totally in love with Chance and thought about being with him, while she was with the other guy. That's wrong.
I mentioned how I wasn't really sure how Chance fit the "bad boy" trope -- I mean, I guess the "bad" aspect of him is that he sleeps around a lot? Is that really a "bad" thing? I'm not saying we should give him a medal or something, but when I think of a "bad boy" in YA, I think of smoking, drinking, tattoos, motorcycles, gangs, maybe even drugs and petty theft. (Don't get me wrong; tattoos aren't really a bad thing. But they are definitely illegal for anyone under eighteen.)
The more I think about this book, the less I like it.
Would I Recommend It:
I don't recommend this book. I started off with a 2-star rating, and then bumped it down to 1 star. This isn't a contemporary novel for me and even though I am not a huge fan of YA contemporary, I could list you at least a dozen better YA contemporary novels with solid, healthy, good romances worth reading. This book was not one in which I could root for the heroine. The hero, yes, I couldn't blame him for very much. (I know there may be people coming after me to say, "boys are never blamed for anything!". Trust me. This one's on Jenny.)
1 star. Too many issues with the romance for me. And I started to dislike Jenny and her ridiculous decisions. Yes, I know, Jenny is a teenager and teenagers make stupid decision. Y'all, I'm 22, and even if I had read this book three, or four, or five years ago, my opinion wouldn't have changed. I so wanted to love this book, and I feel bad for rating it as low as I am, but it is what it is.
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