By Cora Carmack
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Mackenzie “Max” Miller has just received a phone call from her conservative parents. Since her parents are helping her financially while she tries to make it with her music, Max has always been careful to cover her tattoos and dye her hair a “relatively normal color” for her visits home. Her parents don’t know that her two jobs are in a tattoo parlor and a bar, and they certainly don’t know that her boyfriend Mace is a hard-drinking, tattoo-covered high school dropout who is the drummer in her band. Max is not prepared to hear her mother say that she and Max’s dad are not at home in Oklahoma but rather five minutes away from the coffee shop where Max is sitting. They have come to Philadelphia to spend Thanksgiving with Max and to meet the smart, nice-guy boyfriend that she has just assured them she is seeing. To say Max is desperate is to understate the case.
When Max spots Cade at a nearby table, she is struck by how much he looks like the kind of nice guy her parents want to see her with. She approaches him with a request that he become her fake boyfriend for the few days her parents are in town. Cade agrees on the condition that Max return the favor by saying yes to a real date with him. The game works too well. Max’s parents adore Cade. They return to Oklahoma making plans for Cade to join them for the Christmas holidays.
Cade is fascinated by Max’s bold approach to life and by her passion for her music. Max is discovering that there is far more to Cade than the golden boy image he presents. The more time they spend together, the deeper their relationship grows. Max keeps telling herself that Cade is not her type, but he keeps proving that he is who she needs. Cade’s feelings for Bliss pale in comparison to the storm of lust, love, compassion, and connection that Max stirs in him. But they both have baggage from the past that complicates their relationship, and Max particularly is terrified by the idea of Cade’s knowing her so intimately that he sees past all her defenses. Can they overcome their fears and pride, or will each become for the other just another name on the list of people he/she has lost?
I have not read Losing It, the book in which Bliss, a college senior in theater studies, sets out to lose her virginity, and ends up with her theater professor. Cade, a close friend who has been in love with Bliss for years, is the loser in that triangle. But I had no difficulty following Faking It because Carmack includes sufficient details for the reader new to the series to understand the relationships. Bliss seems an image in pretty pastels who fades out when compared to the boldly colored abstract that is Max. That impression might have been different had I read Losing It, but otherwise starting with Faking It presented no problems.
I like both Max and Cade. I found them credible characters and a good balance for one another in terms of personality. Max is scarred from her experience as the survivor of an automobile accident in which her older sister was killed. Given her guilt and her years attempting to be the perfect daughter, both her rebellion and her inability to confront her parents with the person she truly is made sense. Cade is an almost perfect hero. Carmack’s choice to tell the story in alternating points of view keeps him from golden—and boring—perfection. I especially enjoyed the focus on Max’s music and the scenes that showed Cade involved in his volunteer work.
Secondary characters fare less well in this book. They are thinly developed. Indeed, Max’s parents seem one dimensional until near the end of the book. Since readers see them only through Max’s and Cade’s points of view, perhaps this impression was inevitable. Max’s brother and bitchy sister-in-law are almost caricatures and serve little purpose.
My experience in the New Adult genre* is limited to Faking It and four books by Tammara Webber. Before I heard the term “New Adult,” I recommended the Webber books with the caution that they were “mature YA” and that I would not be giving them to the young teen YA readers in my life. My reaction has not changed because a new label is available. I read YA long before adults reading YA became a trendy topic. I spent more than two decades interacting in the classroom with students 18-25 (the targeted NA audience) and found them, by a large majority, interesting, intelligent, and likeable people. I’ve been out of the NA demographic for longer than the target audience has been alive, but my age doesn’t keep me from enjoying a good story featuring characters in that age group. The New Adult label may help twenty-somethings find books in which the characters’ experiences mirror their own, but it should not keep readers over twenty-five from enjoying a good story about younger characters. If you appreciate a good story and are not put off by protagonists under 25, I suggest you give Faking It a try.
*Faking It is a New Adult romance. For those unfamiliar with the term, New Adult is the latest addition to genre fiction. It has been called a bridge between Young Adult and Adult literature. The genre’s characters are out of high school, frequently in college, and, although legally adult, are in that stage where they are still dependent upon their parents to varying degrees. The romance in New Adult features more explicit sex scenes than one finds in YA novels, and the protagonist’s discovery of self is also a central concern. The term has stirred controversy because some see it as an organic development addressing the interests of the 18-25 audience while others see it as an unnecessary label coined by marketers.