Incriminating Dating suffers from a lack of originality and spark. So much of the book feels manufactured, including plot and characters. In using the very tired YA device of ‘fake boyfriend’, author Purdy would have really needed to create some kind of wit or charm to elevate beyond the cliches. Unfortunately, there was none to be found here. As a very fluffy Summer read, I imagine this will fit the bill. But keep in mind that we have a Twinkie instead of steak for dinner.
Story: Ayla is frustrated that the school keeps pumping money into the jocks rather than the arts and sciences. Her only solution is to run for student body president so she can have a say in how the school’s funds are allocated. When she catches super popular jock Luke Pressler misbehaving, she has the perfect blackmail material to force him to pretend to be her boyfriend. With a popular guy at her side, she might just have a chance to win the election.
I just wasn’t believing any of the characters and how they interacted with each other. From the ‘oh-so-perfect’ Luke Pressler to the ‘chubby and nerdy’ Ayla, nothing felt real. The problem with creating a ‘nerdy’ character is that you really need to show more than tell. Ayla supposedly plays video games a lot – but never once do we see her doing so. In fact, our only indication is maybe mentioning picking up a purse with Zelda’s Link on it or listing off various games she’s played in the past so she has a talking point to impress Luke’s younger brother. And I even had to wonder if the author knows the games herself since the games that Ayla mentioned to Luke that would impress his little brother have graphic violence and even sexual hook ups in them (e.g., Skyrim and Dragon Age).
Luke was, of course, too perfect to be real. Here’s a guy who is desperately trying to stay afloat in the midst of his family financially hurting, keeping up appearances so he can get a college scholarship, and very careful about how others perceive him. And yet he isn’t too upset to be blackmailed in a way that would lose him EVERYTHING – and not too upset with the girl doing it. And the supposed “must go along with the flow’ guy doesn’t seem too worried about having a very uncool girlfriend. Of course, to moralize, Ayla will teach him to respect others and stand up for the weak – even though it would have been social suicide in reality. Luke should have been edgy and resentful but instead was the perfect, girl-sniffing, nuzzling, hand holding boyfriend. I just didn’t buy it.
Of course, side characters suffer – here even worse. There is the requisite head cheerleader queen B, the stupid jock who abuses the weak, and teachers who supposedly care more about the jocks than the arts. Add in the quirky best friend and yeah, we’ve seen it before.
I got bored around 40% into the book – it was just too unrealistic and the promise of something charming went unfulfilled. A well trod plot coupled with bland and insipid characters lacking nuance didn’t help propel the story further. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.