When it starts to seem like it could be forgivable if it was for true love, Penny and Kai decide to fake date and act like they are in love, making Olivia and Jordan jealous and hopefully winning them back. However, nothing seems to be going according to plan, and Penny must re-evaluate the relationships in her life, getting to the truth behind the facade.
What I loved: The book is told in two timelines, the present in the summer, and the past year when they were juniors, leading up to and during her relationship with Jordan. These dual perspectives were intriguing and gave better understanding to Penny, her friendships, and her relationship. Ultimately, there were some great messages about true friendship, loyalty, depth of connection, and problematic mean girl behavior.
Penny was very anxious about her popularity and having other people like her. This stems in part from her childhood, with the father who left them to stay with his wife, and the mother who is working or dating all the time, merely leaving notes and money for food for her and her brother. During this summer of turmoil, when her friendships are tenuous or broken, Penny has time to evaluate the people around her and the relationships she wants. For instance, she begins working with a girl she used to be really good friends with, Sarah, but she now makes fun of with Olivia and crowd. Seeing her perspectives and beginning to think about the people who bring value to her life, Penny does some deeper reflections and re-evaluation of her role in the past and her own priorities.
In terms of the romance, I really loved it. I love fake dating, and I love enemies-to-lovers, and this gave me both and then some. The swoon factor here was very high. Like Myriah, I ship them, OTP for sure. There was one scene in particular that just stole my heart. People who love romance will love this book, for serious.
I also really appreciated the side characters that help make this such a fantastic read. Penny's brother, Seb, is wise beyond his years and adds something special to the story. Sarah is also brilliant with her fierce confidence and cool band, who also teaches Penny so much about friendship. Myriah is another really sweet character. This book is filled with compelling characters who were fully constructed.
The beginning of the book had a bit of suspense feel, and we really get thrust into Penny's feelings as she tries to piece things together and decide how she'll move forward. Overall, I'd place it as contemporary romance. There are some really great themes about acceptance, standing up for others, the shallowness of popularity, the importance of love that stems from deeper knowing, the limited nature of high school (even though it feels life consuming), the importance of communication, privilege, and the harm of stereotyping.
Final verdict: Swoon-worthy, charming, and riveting, HEARTBREAKERS AND FAKERS is a fantastic YA contemporary that I will be recommending for everyone.