This Time It's Real

This Time It's Real
Age Range
Release Date
February 07, 2023
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Get ready to fall in love in this hilarious romcom about a girl who begins a fake relationship with the famous actor in her class, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Jenny Han.

When seventeen-year-old Eliza Lin’s essay about meeting the love of her life unexpectedly goes viral, her entire life changes overnight. Now she has the approval of her classmates at her new international school in Beijing, a career-launching internship opportunity at her favorite magazine…and a massive secret to keep.

Eliza made her essay up. She’s never been in a relationship before, let alone in love. All good writing is lying, right?

Desperate to hide the truth, Eliza strikes a deal with the famous actor in her class, the charming but aloof Caz Song. She’ll help him write his college applications if he poses as her boyfriend. Caz is a dream boyfriend -- he passes handwritten notes to her in class, makes her little sister laugh, and takes her out on motorcycle rides to the best snack stalls around the city.

But when her relationship with Caz starts feeling a little too convincing, all of Eliza’s carefully laid plans are threatened. Can she still follow her dreams if it means breaking her own heart?

Editor review

1 review
Fake Dating Perfection
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THIS TIME IT’S REAL by Ann Liang is a YA Contemporary Romance set in Beijing, where Eliza attends an international school after moving for the umpteenth time. As usual, she’s having a hard time fitting in, but then an essay of hers goes viral unexpectedly, garnering her media attention and a coveted internship. The only problem is the article highlights her romantic relationship… which doesn’t exist. Luckily for her, Caz Song, a famous actor, goes to her school, and after outlining how it would be mutually beneficial for them to fake date, Caz agrees. Unfortunately, despite Eliza’s thorough planning, neither of them anticipates what’ll happen if they get too close.

I love this book as it’s a true contemporary romance and a nice pick-me-up. In fact, it’s the best use of the fake dating trope that I’ve read to date. For instance, both characters have a genuine reason to enter into this agreement as the stakes are high for both of them. In other words, this arrangement isn’t just a plot device. It’s well-motivated, which makes it all the more fun. Liang is masterful at weaving in personal struggles for the characters that make the fake-dating situation even more complicated. For instance, I really appreciate seeing Eliza grapple with what home means and how it feels to have a multinational background, which in turn makes her want to keep people at arm’s length, and on the flip side, because of Caz’s career, he has a hard time allowing people to see him when he’s not “perfect.”

My favorite part, though, is when we get to peek behind the curtain at how the characters are really feeling. For instance, we see Caz’s cool indifference through Eliza’s POV, but then hear from Caz’s castmate how difficult he’s been on set, indicating he’s not handling everything as well as it seems. Because of that, the angst in this book is so good and builds really naturally. As such, Eliza’s and Caz’s relationship feels real and grounded, despite the fact that he’s a movie star and she’s a budding teenage writer. Liang does a fantastic job at making sure this story doesn’t read like an unrealistic daydream, but instead like a legitimate possibility.

Overall, THIS TIME IT’S REAL is a supremely sweet story that will make you root for the characters to figure it all out, and let go of what’s holding them back from living happily ever after… for now. Fans of TO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE will enjoy this novel, not only because of the same trope but also because of the adorable and quirky younger sister.
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