Yes, it’s me, Lais: the #1 fan of fake-dating books at your service. You’re welcome.
I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now and I feel like I finally have enough books to give you my opinion on.
Because fake-dating is a specific trope, I have a few things to consider when making this ranking:
- Characters’ motivations: /10
- Commitment to the fake-dating: /10
- Angst & tension: /10
- Overall book execution: /10
Obviously, all these things are STILL VERY MUCH SUBJECTIVE!!!! I can feel a certain way about the characters’ motivations and you can feel the complete opposite. And that’s okay! As much as I want to claim that I am well-versed in fake-dating, I am still just one person giving their opinion online for no reason at all. So I promise it’s not serious at all!
I also had to do Maths for this post, so pls like share with friends or sth, I worked hard, ok lmao.
THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND, BY KASIE WEST
1. Characters’ motivations:
Gia’s boyfriend breaks up with her in the parking lot of her prom and she has to find a new fake date. Honestly, I’d do the same, because walking into prom without the boyfriend that you’ve been raving about for weeks would definitely be a cringe sequence for the history books. As for our fake-boyfriend, he doesn’t have that many reasons to keep up with the façade, except he wants to impress his ex, which is like… I guess? 8/10
2. Commitment to the fake-dating:
I’d argue both characters are pretty committed, but it becomes too quickly about doing things for each other as “friends” rather than as “fake boyfriend and girlfriend”, which takes away the *tension* of it all (like, the pretending to hug, and kiss and hold hands, which is the excellence of the trope to begin with). 6/10
3. Angst & tension:
Gia is already facing enough angst and tension with her friends and family, so the relationship is more about being her safe space than anything. That is not a bad thing & actually works for the book, but I’m a hoe for angst, so… 4/10
4. Overall book execution:
I actually really like this book! It’s as dramatic as an early 2000s rom-com and I love it for that. The fake-dating is alright, and it added enough to the story imo. 9/10
FINAL RATING: 6,75/10
FRANKLY IN LOVE, BY DAVID YOON
1. Characters’ motivations:
Frank wants to date this girl, but this girl is white. Joy wants to date this boy, but this boy is Chinese. Joy and Frank’s parents just want them to date fellow Koreans, so they start fake-dating each other to put up a front for their parents, while they’re actually with their own partners. It’s honestly an epic plan. 10/10
2. Commitment to the fake-dating:
These characters were so committed to the fake-dating that they actually cheat on their respective partners! We absolutely fucking hate to see it! -2/10
3. Angst & tension:
Most of the angst & tension comes from these characters, again, CHEATING on the people they’re *actually* dating. However, there’s also the fact that at one point, Joy and Frank’s parents fight and yet that somehow never affects their relationship because….? I guess the author just didn’t care enough to write about that? 2/10
4. Overall book execution:
Y’all, this book is not bad. As a coming of age story, a tale of identity and family, it’s actually pretty fucking good. I also really like David Yoon’s writing. But as a fake-dating book, it sucks. Not only the cheating, but the romance in general makes no sense and it’s so insta-lovey it hurts. 6/10
FINAL RATING: 4/10
TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, BY JENNY HAN
1. Characters’ motivations: Let’s bring it back to the classics, shall we? The motivations here are kinda blurry and all over the place. Lara Jean wants to prove she no longer has feelings for her sister’s ex, because well, it’s her sister’s ex. And Peter K wants to win his ex back. A lot of exes, childhood friends and drama. Lara Jean’s motivations are not exactly realistic, but a lot stronger, so it gets a 8/10.
2. Commitment to the fake-dating: Lara Jean and Peter actually have a whole ~contract~ for what they’re supposed to do when entering this deal, and they’re pretty commited. Peter gives Lara Jean rides every morning and writes her notes. Lara Jean goes to parties with him and bakes him cookies. A fair trade for me. 10/10
3. Angst & tension: Ooooohhh, yes, these two deliver. Because they have “history” – like the fact Lara Jean wrote an entire letter confessing her feelings to him -, it makes things twice more complicated. Unlike the other couples I mentioned in this post, that didn’t really know each other that much before the fake-dating, these two absolutely do and the unresolved feelings come to play wonderfully here. 10/10
Overall book execution: I am absolutely biased, because I adore the To All the Boys series and the entire universe Jenny Han created. I love the characters, their dynamics, the writing, the amount of baking & rom-com references, etc. So, this is another easy rating for me. 10/10
FINAL RATING: 9,5/10
BOYFRIEND MATERIAL, BY ALEXIS HALL
Note: this book is actually an adult romance.
Characters’ motivations: Again, the motivations are a bit unbalanced. Luc needs a fake-boyfriend that is respectable and with a good reputation, to help him repair his so he can keep his job. But Oliver doesn’t have that much of a reason to be engaging on the fake relationship, except he needs emotional support when meeting his
(incredibly toxic cof cof) family. 7/10
Commitment to the fake-dating: This is another case where the characters turn to friends pretty quickly, so most of what they do together is not to keep up the front of their fake relationship, but because they’re genuinely being supportive. 7/10
Angst & tension: Even if there’s not much *actual* tension in terms of the fake dating (like, not a lot of forced proximity and PDA moments, even though these are absolutely chef’s kiss whenever they happen), there’s definitely a good amount of angst, especially towards the end, and it’s totally worth reading if you’re a fan of those in your romances. 10/10
Overall book execution: I did adore this book. The humour is absolutely out of this world, the romance made me actually giggle and the characters are so beautifully complex. It’s another easy 10/10 for me.
FINAL RATING: 8,5/10
HANI AND ISHU’S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING, BY ADIBA JAIGIRDAR
Characters’ motivations: Hani wants to “prove” to her friends that she is in fact bisexual by dating a girl, which is… like, a realistic motivation I can see people having becaue biphobia is very much real, but also absolutely awful that she’d even have to do that. Friendly reminder that no one should have to “prove” their sexuality to others✨. As for Ishu, she hopes to by dating Hani she’ll become more popular and get more votes for her as Head Girl, which is a motivation I can stand by. 8/10
Commitment to the fake-dating: I also didn’t think there were many moments when these characters actually went out of their way to commit to the fake-dating, except when Ishu had to go on a triple date with Hani’s friends and talk about Riverdale and the royals, which I imagine must’ve been in her top 10 hardest moments. 8/10
Angst & tension: Well, there were definitely some moments. Like, their first date had me giggling and there’s this scene in Ishu’s bedroom that was also UMMM YES OK. I will say, though, the “there’s only one bed” scene’s execution had me \: 8/10
Overall book execution: This was another really good one. Adiba Jaigirdar is so good at discussing very serious topics in her books, while still keeping them entertaining. Her writing is also SO good. I loved both Hani and Ishu’s family dynamics, so honestly this was solid. 9/10
FINAL RATING: 8,25
RENT A BOYFRIEND, BY GLORIA CHAO
Characters’ motivations: This one is different because it’s literally a rent a boyfriend situation. Meaning Drew is just here for the coin, lol. But he does grow fond of Chloe very fast, so he’s also there to support her. As for Chloe, she hopes that getting herself a boyfriend will finally remove the idea off her parents’ head that she should get married to the local playboy. 9/10
Commitment to the fake-dating: Drew is COMMITTED, ok. Again, yes, he’s technically being paid, so he doesn’t really have a choice? But like, the way he was cooking and washing the dishes and spending family holidays with Chloe and almost fucking up his other fake dates for her? Iconic. 10/10
Angst & tension: To be honest, this book could’ve been A LOT more tense and angsty than it was. Like I said, Drew quickly realizes how complicated Chloe’s situation is, so they quickly become friends more than fake boyfriend and girlfriend, which was a bit disappointing tbh. 6/10
Overall book execution: This book is hilarious and an absolutely wild ride. Like, it’s very ridiculous at times, but there are also serious and relevant conversations in terms of identity and how both of these characters relate to their heritage as Chinese-Americans. 7/10
FINAL RATING: 8/10
COUNTING DOWN WITH YOU, BY TASHIE BHUIYAN
Characters’ motivations: To be honest, the fake-dating in this book doesn’t make that much sense at all. Alistair wants to prove his family that he can actually find a decent girlfriend, but at the same time, his entire thing is *not* being decent because that’s what makes his family give a shit about him? See how it doesn’t go at all? Karina also has no reason to be his fake girlfriend, except she wants to help him because she’s a good soul or whatever. 2/10
Commitment to the fake-dating: They do go on a date together and Karina does pretend to be Alistair’s girlfriend when she’s around his family, but for the most part, they’re actually dating and yet pretending it’s fake. It’s very confusing, trust me. 6/10
Angst & tension: Literally, none. Which is probably good considering Karina technically didn’t even want to be in this agreement in the first place (she legit has a panic attack when he brings it up), so at least he’s not putting her into more unnecessary tension, though there’s still a lot of confusion between what’s real and what’s not, that is frankly a shared emotion between all the readers. 4/10
Overall book execution: Sooooo, I actually didn’t like this one. I did appreciate the friend group and the anxiety rep, but the characters were a bit too cliché and their dynamic too cheesy. 7/10
FINAL RATING: 5/10
I still have more books to talk about, such as Take a Hint Dani Brown & Meet Cute Diary, but I will save those for a second edition of this post. Thank you so much for reading & pls recommend me more fake dating romances!