In Real Life is a heartwarming coming-of-age novel about Internet friendships and what happens when things turn into real life.
See the end of the post for a chance to win your own copy of the book!
[Some Spoilers; Young Adult]
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
About the Book
Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, Skype all the time, regularly send each other presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.
There’s just one problem…Hannah and Nick have never actually met.
Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker at school, she decides to finally break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Vegas, with her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-a-friend feelings for him.
Hannah’s romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and realizes Nick hasn’t been exactly truthful to her about several things in his life. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has one night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.
I couldn’t put this book down. It was such a fun, slightly angsty read.
Hannah has known Nick for four years, but they’ve never met in real life. They talk on the phone, text, use messenger and video chat, but she’s never actually stood in front of him before.
They tried to meet up once but that turned out horribly so Hannah hasn’t ever tried again, and she ignores Nick’s attempts at subtly bringing it up. What if they meet in real life and the spell breaks?
I really loved Hannah. I could relate to her so well because I remember being that teenager—the one that followed the rules and didn’t make waves. I could feel the tension in Hannah between wanting to do something different but being scared. The author captured that so well in Hannah’s character.
She’s no wilting flower, either. She stands up for herself when it comes to Grace (her sister) and Lo (her BFF). I was so happy about that, too. Part of me wanted to shake them for being so self-absorbed in Hannah’s time of need.
Then there’s Nick. He’s sweet and earnest, but awkward. He has put himself on the line and told Hannah how he feels for her but she shut him down because she was scared. When Hannah unexpectedly shows up in Vegas, he’s thrown for a loop. He never expected her to surprise him, and he has so many things he hasn’t told her.
Since the book is only in Hannah’s point-of-view, we don’t get a look into Nick’s thoughts, but the author’s description of him and how well Hannah knows him show us part of what he’s feeling.
The meeting that they’ve been waiting for is tense with drama and unsaid feelings as secrets come out about Nick, and Hannah tries to figure out how she’s supposed to move forward from there.
I don’t want to give anything away because that was half the fun for me. Watching this all unfold as Hannah experiences it. To feel her inner turmoil and the realization that she can have both things she wants…success and love.
What’s so wonderful about this book is it takes place over the course of a couple of days really, but we get small flashbacks to show up what’s been going on with Hannah and Nick over the course of their friendship.
Their friendship and potential romance will take you straight back to your unsure teenage years. The accuracy is just amazing.
Excerpt (Credit—In Real Life by Jessica Love; Courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books)
My best friend and I have never met.
We talk every day, on the phone or online, and he knows more about me than anyone. Like, deep into my soul. But we’ve never actually seen each other in real life.
Sometimes, when I’m talking to Nick, I wonder how we man- aged to get ourselves into such a bizarre, complicated friendship. At ﬁrst glance, our relationship probably doesn’t seem all that odd. Like right now, it’s the Friday afternoon that kicks off the spring break of my senior year. I’m lying out next to my pool with my feet dangling in the chilly water, my back ﬂat on concrete, and I’m talking to him on the phone. This is how I spend pretty much every Friday from 3:30 to 4:25-ish, before he goes off to band practice and I have one of my various school or family obligations. Sounds pretty normal.
But the thing is, Nick lives in a different state, 274 miles away. Yes, I looked it up.
“Ghost,” he says, because he never calls me Hannah, “you know I will do anything for my best friend, and this is no exception. I’ll have this girl killed for you without a second thought. Just give me twenty-four hours.”
I laugh as I swish my feet back and forth in the pool. “There’s no need to resort to murder. It’s just a stupid student government trip. I’ll be over it by the end of the week.”
As tempting as it is to plot Aditi Singh’s violent end, the only reason she applied to go to the national leadership conference when it should have been a given that the senior class president (aka me) was going was because I got into UCLA and she didn’t, so a big ol’ middle ﬁnger to her. But she can’t see my middle ﬁnger, because she’s in Washington, D.C., for spring break and I’m at home with no plans like a big loser.
“Well, if you change your mind,” Nick says, “just let me know. That’s how much our friendship means to me. The code word is ‘Platypus.’ Just say it, and—poof!—I’ll make her disappear.”
I sit up and pull my feet from the pool, crossing them in front of me. “And how can you do that?”
“Hey, I live in Vegas. I have connections to the mob. Everyone here does.”
“You’re a senior in high school, and you live in a tract home in Henderson. You’re not exactly Al Pacino.”
“You don’t know. Everything I’ve told you for the past four years could be a front. I need to have a cover. No one suspects the quiet, nondescript white boy.”
“You’re right. There is a lot I don’t know about you. I mean, there are any number of huge secrets you could be keeping from me.” I say it just because I’m playing along, but it’s not true at all. I’m pretty sure I know everything there is to know about Nick Cooper.
I know when my sister met his brother at a concert four years ago and they told us we should start talking online, he thought I was one of his brother’s friends playing a joke on him until I e-mailed him a picture. I know in the middle of junior year, he shaved his head when his favorite English teacher started chemo. I know the gravelly scratch of his voice when he wakes up in the middle of the night to answer one of my random “I’m bored, talk to me” phone calls. I know the hole in the sleeve seam of the lucky Rage Against the Machine T-shirt he inherited from his brother, Alex, since I’ve seen so many pictures of it. I know his middle name (Anthony), the date and time he was born (September 24 at 3:58 A.M.), and his favorite color (gray). And he knows more about me than absolutely anyone else, even the über-embarrassing stuff. We’ve IM’d, texted, sent a million pictures, mailed each other packages, video-chatted, and talked on the phone.
We’ve just never been in the same place at the same time.
I don’t think it’s strange to be so close to someone I’ve never met. Yeah, he’s in Nevada and I’m in Southern California, but I talk to him more than to people I’ve been in classes with since kindergarten. I do wish we could go to the movies together or something normal like that, but we watch the same movies at the same time and mock them over video chat, which is pretty much the same thing.
On the other end of the phone, his laugh stops abruptly and his voice changes. “Secrets? What kind of secrets could I have?”
“Who knows!” I try to sound shocked and serious, but I can’t keep a laugh from creeping in. “For all I know, you do have a secret mob life. Do you have some sort of gangster name I’m supposed to call you?”
His voice lightens again when he realizes I’m joking. “Oh yeah. Knuckles Nick. Or, no. Wait. Nick the Click.”
“What does that even mean?”
“I don’t know. It rhymed. Don’t those names always rhyme?”
“I know nothing about mob names, Nick the Click. But rhyming names do make mobsters seem a bit less murder-y.”
There’s a shufﬂe, a thump, and a squeak on his end of the phone, and I imagine him collapsing backwards onto his twin bed. “I just hate that you’re still bummed over missing out on the trip.”
“It’s not that I’m bummed, it’s just . . . I followed all the rules, Nick. I did exactly what I was supposed to do. Serving four years as class president means I go on that trip, not Aditi Singh. Onetime vice-presidents don’t get to go! It’s supposed to be my year. She broke the rules, but she got picked. How do you break all the rules and get what you want like that? It isn’t fair.”
“Well, you know what they say. . . .” “Life’s not fair?”
“Well, that, too. But I was thinking rules are made to be broken.”
In the comments below, tell me what your favorite type of Young Adult Romance is. Friends to more? Enemies to friends to more? The ever popular pretend to date then fall in love? What do you love to read in YA?
A winner will be randomly selected on Monday, March 14, and you’ll receive a paperback copy of In Real Life! The giveaway is open to residents in the U.S. and Canada only and the prize will be fulfilled directly by St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books.
Trust me, you won’t want to miss this book!
***Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the advanced copy!