I read my first Timothy Janovsky back in June, and now The (Fake) Dating Game is my fourth. With each book, he gets better and more assured. I really liked Never Been Kissed, though I could see where the plot could use some tightening and tuning. New Adult was one of my favorite reads last year (though it somehow got left off my list?), so I have been excited about diving into this one. Furthermore, this might be one of my favorite fake dating romances of all time.
The highest form of being in Timothy Janovsky’s world is being your own authentic and weird self. A good relationship, romantic or otherwise, is one where all parties can be who they are. The worst thing a person can do is try to conform to someone else’s idea of who they are supposed to be, or some idea of what an adult is supposed to be. Holden and Leo start in places where they are so unhappy because they are trying to be the kinds of adults other people tell them they should be and they are failing pretty miserably. Like recognizes like and they spark. The book gets sexy pretty quickly, but the physical attraction is only a part of what brings Holden and Leo together. The getting to know each other, beneath protective shells and behind masks, comes more slowly. Getting to know Holden and Leo while they get to know each other is my favorite part of the book.
I should note here that Leo is biracial Korean American raised primarily by his Korean American mother. As a middle aged while woman, I am not the person to give an opinion on the quality of the Korean American representation.
Grief is a strong current in The (Fake) Dating Game. Holden is shaped by grief for his mother who died just before he graduated from high school. His long time boyfriend dumps him at the beginning of the book in part because he hasn’t “gotten over” his mother’s death. Leo’s recognition of Holden’s grief is what brings them together. Some of the best romances brings characters together who are ready to break open or break away and become their more authentic self. By the end, Holden and Leo are no longer feeling like failures, but have settled into themselves. It made my heart happy.
CW: grief, death of a parent in past, parental abandonment in past, the grind of capitalism, public breakup, awful exes, homophobic parent (countered) off page.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Afterglow Books by Harlequin and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.