YA Friday: Tropes Spring Eternal – The Fake Relationship

A monthly feature where I examine various reading tropes and share some books that use the trope in their plots.

Drive Me Crazy

For the first in this new YA Friday monthly feature "Tropes Spring Eternal," I decided to talk about one of my favorite tropes: The Fake Relationship. This usually blends well with the "Enemies-Turned-Lovers" trope. While this trope may never work in real life, it's always a super fun plot to read (and watch). The trope is essentially that a relationship is formed between the leads for some purpose that requires the pair to appear to be in a romantic partnership. This purpose can be mutually beneficial or one-sided but both parties agree to fake romantic feelings to reach the end goal and they usually end up realizing that the fake romance wasn't so fake after all.

While it can be a bit cliche, and you know they're going to end up together in the end, this trope is a fun one because it is built on tension and "enemistry" (the chemistry between enemies). Often the leads have to spend so much time together that they breakdown previous prejudices and initial impressions and then share quiet moments of vulnerability with one another, which is when the lines between love, lust, fake and reality begin to blur. The tension is heightened even more because even though these two might not be actually dating each other, it doesn’t stop one of them from feeling jealous whenever the other shows interest in someone else. The jealousy is initially brushed off because they can’t possibly be in love with their fake bf/gf...

Ultimately they cast off the initial reasons for faking the relationship and declare their true feelings for one another in some big way, like at a school dance or on the sports field in front of the entire school. They kiss, fireworks, win the big game, and that is when the fake relationship becomes real! :heart eyes emoji:

To All the Boys I've Loved Before book cover

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

With her idolized sister Margot leaving for college, Lara Jean doesn't feel ready for the coming changes: becoming more responsible for their younger sister, Kitty, helping their widowed father, or seeing Margot break up with Josh, the boy next door—whom Lara Jean secretly liked first. But there's even greater upheaval to come, when Lara Jean's five secret letters to the boys she's loved are mailed to them by accident. Lara Jean runs when sweet, dependable Josh tries to talk to her about her letter. And when Peter Kavinsky gets his letter, it brings him back into Lara Jean's life, all handsome, charming, layered and complicated. They start a fake relationship to help Lara Jean deal with Josh and Peter to get over his ex. But maybe Lara Jean and Peter will discover there's something more between them as they learn about themselves and each other.

The Fill-In Boyfriend book cover

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Gia Montgomery is the epitome of a popular high school girl; she's a pretty, self-centered student body president who constantly seeks approval via social media. New girl Jules has been adopted into the popular girl clique but is really more of a frenemy, always trying to bring Gia down a notch or two. So when Gia's oft-bragged-about-but-never-actually-seen college boyfriend breaks up with her in the parking lot outside the prom, she is understandably desperate to save face. Enter random boy sitting in his car in the parking lot. Gia bangs on his window and demands/begs the stranger to fill in as her boyfriend for the prom. The Fill-In Bradley ("FIB") guy fits the bill, and Gia pulls off the deception to Jules and her friends. But circumstances continue to bring Gia and "FIB" (actual name: Hayden) together and she ends up liking him far more than she ever expected.

Hot Dog Girl book coverHot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

This is going to be the best summer yet for Elouise "Lou" Parker, who is spending the months before senior year working at a local amusement park. This is the second summer Lou and her lesbian best friend, Seeley, are working at the park, and to her dismay, it will also be their last—the owner is closing it down for good at the end of the season. When she isn't in her hot dog costume, Lou spends half her time scheming to save the park and the other half trying to get closer to her crush, Nick. She's getting flirty vibes from him, but he's already got a girlfriend, so bisexual Lou's solution is to convince Seeley to pretend to be her girlfriend so they can go on double dates and she can get closer to him. They're so close people mistake them for a couple anyhow, so what's the harm?

Analee in Real Life book cover

Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes

Florida teen Analee Echevarria has feared social interaction since her mom died three years ago. Now, she’s dealing with even more personal hurdles: her best friend, Lily, has gone radio silent; she can’t figure out how to express her feelings for Harris, her online role-playing quest partner; and worst of all, her Cuban father is about to marry a younger, Barbie-perfect yoga instructor. When partnered in biology class with insufferable heartthrob Seb Matias, who isn’t over his latest breakup, Analee takes a chance on his wacky suggestion: become a fake couple to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Heat and humidity levels rise, as do the stakes.

How Not to Ask a Boy to Prom book cover

How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom by S. J. Goslee

Unlike other juniors fretting about college, Nolan Grant Sheffield is content to work at the plant nursery forever if he doesn't get into his top school. But among a long list of college prep plans, his older sister Daphne's making her never-been-kissed brother ask a boy to prom—or she'll ask someone for him. Nolan chooses his longtime crush Si O'Mara, out school football star and GSA president. But before Nolan gets Si's answer, classmate Bern intercepts the promposal to save Nolan from potential embarrassment. Suddenly, Nolan finds himself not only going to the dance with Bern, a guy who used to bully him, but also fake dating him. As the relationship starts to tiptoe the line between real and pretend, will the odd couple make it to prom night?

The Stand-In Boyfriend book cover

The Stand-In by Steve Bloom

Brooks Rattigan has a plan: do everything in his power to get into Columbia University and out of Pritchard, NJ. When Brooks overhears a classmate trying to find a date for his cousin to homecoming, he offers to take her and becomes The Stand-In. He quits his job at the local sub shop, and what started out as a onetime gesture of goodwill becomes a lucrative business. The teen spends his weekends taking girls to their dances and parties in an attempt to make them feel special and build his college fund. Will Brooks be able to handle college applications, a stoner dad, a slacker best friend, difficult clients, and the girl of his dreams?

Further Reading

No Love Allowed book coverJenna & Jonah's Fauxmance book coverWhen It's Real book coverCatch a Falling Star book coverThen Way to Game the Walk of Shame book coverBlackmail Boyfriend book cover