2 star, adult

Review: Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan

What happens when your love life becomes the talk of the town?

As birthdays go, this year’s for radio producer Everly Dean hit rock-bottom.

Worse than the “tonsillectomy birthday.” Worse than the birthday her parents decided to split (the first time). But catching your boyfriend cheating on you with his assistant?

Even clichés sting.

But this is Everly’s year! She won’t let her anxiety hold her back. She’ll pitch her podcast idea to her boss.

There’s just one problem.

Her boss, Chris, is very cute. (Of course). Also, he’s extremely distant (which means he hates her, right? Or is that the anxiety talking)?

And, Stacey the DJ didn’t mute the mic during Everly’s rant about Simon the Snake (syn: Cheating Ex).

That’s three problems.

Suddenly, people are lining up to date her, Bachelorette-style, fans are voting (Reminder: never leave house again), and her interest in Chris might be a two-way street. It’s a lot for a woman who could gold medal in people-avoidance. She’s going to have to fake it ‘till she makes it to get through all of this.

Perhaps she’ll make a list: The Ten Rules for Faking It. 

Because sometimes making the rules can find you happiness when you least expect it.

“If you happen to find a man who looks like Chris Pine, acts like Chris Hemsworth, smiles like Chris’s Pratt, and has a body like Chris Evans’s, I’ll rethink things. But until then? I am officially off the market.”

From this quote alone, it is rather telling of everything that comes in Ten Rules for Faking It. Rather than focusing on romance – as is its genre – this story is more about conquering fears related to social anxiety while finding love somewhere along the way in between those moments. If I had known this book coming in that the focus is less on meet-cute rom-com kind of plot, maybe then I’d feel differently, but this one just slid past what I was looking for.

Everly hates confrontations, parties with more than a few people, and especially, her birthdays. After (accidentally) publicly airing her grievances about her 30th birthday – finding her cheating ex in bed with someone else, of course – the audience at the radio station she works for becomes super invested in her love life. Unbeknownst to most of the staff, their boss Chris is struggling to prevent the owner from getting rid of the station completely. In comes this brilliant idea to host some sort of Bachelorette style competition where the audience can submit applications to date Everly over the course of a few weeks until she finds a man she wants to date at the end of it. BUT, secretly, Chris has been fighting his attraction to his employee, Everly, for a while now but will move forward with this plan because it’s best for everyone. Sounds cute, right?

It would be if the plot line really looked at this much at all. I was initially getting The Ex Talk vibes here, what with everyone working at a radio station and hosting a fun show about dating for their audience. But where that succeeded fairly well, I just didn’t feel it here.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the fact that Everly suffers from extreme social anxiety. I always appreciate characters, particularly protagonist, who do because it is so real and normalizes the experiences of so many people, particularly women, who experience such things in their own lives. I, too, suffer forms of anxiety, although I am glad social anxiety is not one of them.

What I am saying is that this was less romance and more of a contemporary story, in my opinion. Everly’s issues with confrontations and ever conflicting feelings/thoughts may stem from the strange childhood she had from her parents who continually separate and get back together, putting her in the middle of their bad times while almost ignoring her during their good times. We are inside of Everly’s head so much. From her feelings when trying to do something new (ie. Join a kickboxing class) or even when she attempts to sit in a restaurant with one of her dates for the show, we see and get a very deep look into the churning, racing thoughts inside of her.

The only person who seemed to understand her and what she needed was, of course, her boss Chris. I liked that about him. The male love interest should not just be some emotionless, piece of meat that is only easy on the eyes. Definitely not. But his purpose in her life for the longest time was that of someone Everly could slowly trust, like she did with her best friend Stacey.

I will admit there was some chemistry angst present in some way. By that I mean, more than half the time both of them were absolutely certain that their feelings were unrequited and/or were trying to squash it down for their own reasons – Chris because he doesn’t plan to stay here forever and Everly has issues trusting someone would want to choose her over and over again with all of her baggage. It’s that kind of romance that doesn’t really take much action except for what is in each person’s head during those interactions and mentions of “flushes/tingles” whenever they touch – accidentally or not.

Perhaps if we were outside of Everly’s thoughts a little bit more, and maybe actually focus some on this dating show/game they have running behind the scenes (which really barely gets any page time – it almost feels extra to have included it in there), it would have salvaged this book. But as it stands, I just do not think of it as the kind of romance I would want to pick up. Maybe if I was in the mood and expectation of a contemporary focused on anxiety, but alas, that was not what I was led to believe by the synopsis.

I’m hugely a mood reader and it does matter to me based on what I am feeling at the moment. Like, for instance, I am going through a particularly rough bout of anxiety myself at the time of writing this review (2 weeks after I read the book) so maybe reading about someone like Everly would’ve been helpful right now to know I am not alone.

What it does make up in some way is the snark from Stacey (her whole character is a wild ride in the complete opposite of Everly) and the endless references to popular media. It meets some of the comedic requirements, but overall I’m not as impressed as I thought I’d be.

Overall Recommendation:

Ten Rules for Faking It leans more heavily to a contemporary narrative around social anxiety than a romantic will-they/won’t-they tension. Maybe it’s because we are inside of Everly’s head a lot, especially when her thoughts spiral and she needs to make a hasty exit. I can empathize with that, but I just wasn’t expecting it to take up more than 50% of the book while potential romantic aspects, like a Bachelorette-style radio show gets the back burner. It could just be because I wasn’t in the mood for this book at the time of reading, so maybe you’d fare better than me. The love interest, Chris, was dependable and an all-around great guy so I can see why they both want to be with each other, but I don’t feel it from the writing. If this distinction matters to you, then maybe reconsider your expectations when proceeding.


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