Series: The Fine Art of Pretending

The Natural History of Us by Rachel Harris

The Natural History of Us by Rachel HarrisThe Natural History of Us by Rachel Harris
Series: The Fine Art of Pretending #2
Published by Spencer Hill Press on April 5th 2016
Pages: 297
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One class assignment. One second chance at love. The school player is all in. Now he needs to win back the sweet commitment girl who's forever owned his heart.
Justin Carter has a secret. He's not the total player Fairfield Academy believes him to be. Not really. In fact, he used to be a one-woman guy...and his feelings for her never went away. Too bad he broke her heart three years ago and made sure to ruin any chance she'd ever forgive him.
Peyton Williams is a liar. She pretends to be whole, counting down the days until graduation and helping her parents at the family ranch. But the truth is, she's done everything she can to get over Justin, and salvation is just around the corner. With graduation one short month away, she'll soon break free from the painful memories and start her life fresh. Of course, she has to get through working with him on one last assignment first.
For Justin, nothing ever felt as right as being with Peyton, and now that fate's given him a shot at redemption, he's determined to make the most of it. And for Peyton...well, Justin Carter has always been her kryptonite.

I was overjoyed to see a sequel to ‘The Fine Art of Pretending’, until I realised it’s yet another player-made good story, only set in the inflated drama of high-school. Yet having the characters were trying to behave like the adults they weren’t (with casuals, hook-ups and all), there was always a lingering, uncomfortable sense of displacement I felt when true-love and marriage are talked about by 15-18-year olds, which in turn made it difficult for me to take any of them seriously.

And it’s precisely against this strange, unfamiliar context that Justin’s and Peyton’s conflict unfolds.

While I loved Brandon and Aly together, reading their story only left me with disbelief and skepticism that couldn’t be overturned even after the HEA, simply because I felt Justin was a complete tosser who didn’t quite deserve it. I could never shake off the feeling that he was a total player, despite the blurb of the book, because common, rational sense dictated that he would have done everything to win the woman back the moment he deliberately sabotaged his relationship with her. But that hadn’t happened and he’d continued happily playing hooky until serendipity brought Peyton in his circle again just before graduation in an assignment that’s the definition of bizarre – when he’d decided he wanted it all once again. Coupled with Peyton’s seeming desperation for Justin and her lack of trying with Cade made it just as hard to like her as I did with Justin.

That being said, it takes a lot for a YA/NA book to resonate with me, whether it is because of age (ha!) or circumstances charted out in the narrative that are simply so far removed from what I can empathise with. I simply couldn’t bring myself to like Peyton and Justin – yes, players get very little enthusiasm from me – but that’s no fault of Rachel Harris; rather it lies with my own prejudices and the inability to reconcile the moral depth that I felt the characters lacked.


The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris

The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel HarrisThe Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris
Series: The Fine Art of Pretending #1
Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary on September 30th 2014
Pages: 256
Buy on Amazon

According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player.
With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time.
But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.

My occasional foray into NA/YA fiction led me – entirely by coincidence – to Rachel Harris’s The Fine Art of Pretending. Best friends to lovers stories are found in the millions and those that happen in high school? Probably even more. But I did find myself rather drawn into both Aly’s and Brandon’s story of teenage love despite the shaky beginnings where getting used to the first person narration does a number on my head. Ms Harris did portray – and quite excellently might I add – how emotions are probably heightened and drawn out the way they’re meant to be in the hormonal teen years.