Disclaimer! I was given an ARC of this through NetGalley in return for a fair and unbiased review. Of course, it being a Courtney Milan book, I had also already pre-ordered it, because I will buy anything she writes, even if said thing is a scientific treatise on spiders and cockroaches (the things that creep my out the most). If Ms. Milan ever reads this – please don’t ever write a book like that. I will buy it, but I might not like it much.
Xingjuan “Tina” Chen is a mature student desperately struggling to make ends meet. Her goal is to become a doctor, so she’ll make enough money that she and her family never need worry about paying the bills ever again. As it is, finding enough money to pay her own, and her parents’ bills seems to be pretty much all Tina can think about. When she’s not studying, she’s working multiple jobs so she can send every spare penny home. Her father is unemployed and her mother is a cake decorator, proud every time a cake she makes turns up on “that website“. She spends most of her spare time and whatever money she can find (including much of what Tina sends them) helping Chinese immigrants stay in the country and filing for citizenship. She’s also a champion when it comes to emotional blackmail. Tina loves her mother dearly and admires her dedication on behalf of her community, but also feels exhausted constantly counting every penny in order to make sure her sister gets her medication and her parents’ electricity isn’t cut off.
So on the day when her ultra privileged classmate Blake Reynolds, trust fund billionaire and heir to Cyclone Technology (think Apple) first splashes her prized cashmere sweater with mud driving past in his sports car, and then tries to defend her in a class discussion about poverty, she pretty much loses it. She claims he wouldn’t last two weeks living her life, let alone two months. Blake may not have known an hour of poverty in his life, but his cushy existence involves hard work and he feels crippled by the weight of expectation from his brilliant father. Having lived his life partly in the spotlight since he was a child, being the star of Cyclone’s advertising, Blake is expected to take over the company. After his father’s best friend and business partner died of a heart attack shortly before the launch of Cyclone’s last big invention, his father, the legendary Adam Reynolds has just worked harder. He keeps hinting that he’s ready for Blake to take over, though, and his son wouldn’t dream of ever disappointing Adam. Even if it means keeping quit about the doubts and insecurities he’s feeling.
So when Tina suggests trading lives, Blake is intrigued. While Tina may not think so, Blake has been admiring her from afar for a long time. He is also looking for a way to distract himself from the latest Cyclone launch and the serious conversation he’s going to have to have with his father. He speaks to his financial advisors, and proposes that he and Tina actually swap places until the end of the semester. Tina will make enough money to put herself through college, and Blake will work and support her family while she works on the new Cyclone launch. Of course, to get access to the new Cyclone technology prototype, she has to sign a stack of non-disclosure agreements about as tall as herself and pretend to be Blake’s girlfriend, convincing enough that Adam not hesitate to let her play with their expensive yet to be released toys.
Tina is adamant that the relationship be only pretend, and that she and Blake have no future together. Blake isn’t going to push anything, allowing Tina her space, but the more time he spends with her, the more smitten he is. Yet while they’re growing closer, and more attracted to each other, Blake isn’t ready to share his secrets and fears with Tina either.