My Rating: 4 stars/5
Synopsis: Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with 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, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Las Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.
Hannah’s surprise romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has 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.
Disclaimer: I received this novel in exchange for an honest review and this in no way affects my opinion of the book.
This novel starts out with Hannah disappointed with the turn her spring break has taken. As the senior class president, Hannah should be on a trip to D.C for the national leadership conference. This year, for the first year ever, the vice-president got herself on the trip instead. So now Hannah is left with nothing to do but hangout with her sister Grace, and her best friend, Lo.
When Grace and Lo start pestering her about the fact that she’s never met her long distance best friend, Nick, and how she only ever follows the rules, Hannah decides to do something fun for once. Walking downstairs, Hannah explains how Nick is playing in a big deal show the next night in Las Vegas and that she wants to drive the 4 hours to see him play and meet him for the first time in real life. After her declaration, plans start to fall together and the girls get excited for their trip across state lines.
When the girls arrive in Las Vegas and at Nick’s show, Hannah’s surprise does not go as planned. Apparently the Nick that Hannah knows from online and on the phone, is not the Nick that she sees when she finds him at the show. Nick has been keeping some big secrets from Hannah even though he has led her to believe that they know everything about each other. The best night in Vegas turns out to be an absolutely miserable night in Vegas for Hannah, even though Grace and Lo seem to be having a fantastic time and leaving her to deal with all her problems on her own.
I felt terrible for Hannah as her friends ditch her at the first opportunity to have fun with new boys and leave her to be the 7th wheel. Having been in that position myself more then once, I know exactly how not fun it is, especially when you are in a city you have never been in before.
This novel brought up all the appropriate emotions in me, excitement to meet Nick for the first time, anger at the secrets he kept from Hannah, frustration at the feeling of being left out and unwanted. It was a wonderful roller coaster of emotions that I just could not put down. Even the fact that I had a brand new puppy in my household could not get me to put down this book until I finished it in the same day.
This novel had romance, frustration, excitement, new experiences, and is everything I was looking for. I am looking forward to putting it in the vault, as well as pushing it on all my friends to make them read it!
Now I encourage you to listen to the In Real Life playlist while you read an excerpt from this wonderful novel!
CREDIT: In Real Life by Jessica Love; Courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books
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.”
Jessica Love is a high school English teacher in Los Angeles, California, where she met her husband and her two tiny dogs online. She is the co-writer of Push Girl with Chelsie Hill.