Books: ‘This Time It’s Real’ by Ann Liang

Image of ‘This Time It’s Real’ by Ann Liang. Copyright goes to Penguin Books and Ann Liang.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’m really into the romance genre of books right now and to be honest, as long as the book is cute and wholesome I usually like it. But this book completely blew me out of the water! I don’t think I’ve absolutely loved a book this much since I started mass reading this genre with ‘XOXO’ by Axie Oh. And while I still think that the plot in that book might have been a little more my speed with the travel escapism; I also think that I didn’t relate to that book as much as I related to this book. When looking at the reviews for this book I saw a lot of people talking about how specifically relatable the main character was, and I don’t think I understood quite what they were talking about until I read the book for myself. The romance was also adorable and completely swoon worthy! It’s really not hard at all to fall for the main male character yourself. With that aside, I’m just going to get into it. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! If you want to read the book ahead of time, go for it! I’ll just warn you that there’s a current massive misprint for this book where it’s missing thirty pages in the middle but prints the next thirty pages twice. I’m going to have to return my copy because of this in the hopes of finding a copy without the misprint. If you’re going to read this as an e-book, you’ll absolutely be fine though! I bought a digital copy to fill in the thirty pages it was missing because I was so engrossed in the book that I couldn’t wait!

Summary: After Eliza is required to write a blog post at her new school that details something personal that happened to her, she makes the decision to instead write a fake romance that she feels more passionate about writing. Unfortunately, the post goes viral, causing everyone from classmates to journals she’s loved for years hoping she’ll write more and asking her about a boyfriend she knows doesn’t exist. Her handsome model/actor classmate, Caz, feels just as out of place at school as she does; and after a chance encounter she asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend in order to help her career and support his new drama. But what if she wants it to be real?

The Real:

Eliza- As someone who has been diagnosed with anxiety, it always feels important to me to find protagonists in media that also struggle with that. Eliza is a writer with anxiety who has abandonment issues. Hello? Is this me? But this is depicted all very realistically and without viewing her as weaker for it. I’ve read a few books, some very recently, where the book depicted their main female character with something relatable that instead was presented as a glaring flaw. Sometimes the main character will even constantly complain about this side of herself throughout the book. This was not the case here. Eliza didn’t have to be fixed, she just had to work through some things. Her anxiety was not depicted as a flaw but rather something she had to navigate. I can’t even describe how important that is! Not only that but Eliza was not waiting on anybody to solve her problems for her. She took her life in her own hands, even if it meant changing the way she thought about things before. I loved her so much and reading her story felt like something personal. It was like reading all of my thoughts and doubts laid bare for everyone to see, but in such a comforting and cathartic way. I loved every moment of it!

Caz- How can you not find Caz swoon worthy? He’s the star of several C-Dramas, a few of them being historical fantasy. I was so on board when Eliza went to visit him on the set of his drama and saw him in the historical robes and long wig. (Unfortunately this was part of the thirty pages that was missing, so I had to read this part on the e-book.) I did see a lot of connections between the character of Caz and one of the stars of ‘The Untamed’; Wang Yibo. From the initial stand-offishness, to the not being able to handle spicy food, to the motorcycle, all the way to the mentions of ‘The Untamed’ sprinkled throughout the book. I actually recently read a book where the male lead was obviously modeled after Simu Liu. I am absolutely not complaining! A lot of the inspiration in my own writing comes from the K-Pop biases that I have, so I actually absolutely love when I can kind of see where an author’s inspiration might have come from. It’s yet another thing that I found really relatable about this book! And what’s not to like about Caz? He’s hilariously sarcastic, extremely sweet to Eliza’s little sister, and such a caring boyfriend. Real or not. My heart broke for him when he was obviously trying to see how Eliza felt about him and she kept shutting him down. I loved him so much!

The Romance- Oh my gosh, this has to be one of my new comfort romances. I touched on it a little before, but one of the things I felt was relatable about Eliza was her abandonment issues when it came to anyone other than her family. Because I absolutely have these too! She doesn’t trust people to stay with her and expects them to leave without really knowing what she did to make them leave. And Caz has trust issues that cause him not asking for help from anyone because he doesn’t trust other people to see him beyond the celebrity image. All of this culminates in a scene where she takes care of him while he has an awful fever and while he’s miserable he asks her not to leave and she tells him not to worry and that she won’t go anywhere, and as she does this she thinks about how she had always wanted someone to say that to her. I started crying so much after this scene because I related to it so much. The twist is that I was on a break at work and had to pull myself together afterwards. I cried multiple times over the course of this book, mostly because of how much I related to it and how observant Caz was when it came to Eliza’s anxiety. This is seriously what I hope to have in a relationship one day. They just cared so much about each other and the book has this excellent message about how you shouldn’t be afraid to inconvenience people you love, because if they love you they’ll be just as happy to be inconvenienced by you as you are when it comes to them. This romance automatically shot this up to comfort read material. I guarantee you, I will be re-reading this book over and over and over and over….

Friends- When Eliza starts feeling like she’s being abandoned by her friend after she moves away, she at first just accepts the reality that she values the relationship more than her friend. But that’s not the reality. That’s the reality she made up in her head. Which is something I’ve caught myself doing multiple times. Caz calls out Eliza for making decisions for people in her brain, which is something I do so often and was a moment I felt like I needed to read. Eliza decides to actually communicate and realizes that she’s not losing her friend and all of this was amazing! I know there are plenty of us out there with this insecurity and it’s nice to have that reminder and to also have the reminder that sometimes being brave enough to communicate what we’re feeling is all we really need. Having the conversation is better than blowing it up in your head.

Family- The relationship between Eliza and her family is so wholesome. I feel like when you have friendship abandonment issues, a lot of people will assume it’s because of your home life. This is definitely not true for me and it was refreshing to see that it wasn’t true for Eliza either. Portraying that she felt safe and secure in her home life and that she felt that it was one of the only constants in her life was a dynamic I relate to and don’t often see. I also loved her protective relationship with her little sister and how it went both ways. The family dynamic here was so wholesome and I loved having that in the background and as the backbone of the story. All of the family moments were so adorable! I loved that they all sat around to watch Caz’s drama.

The Writing- I know that this probably isn’t too difficult to portray coming from an author, but I feel like you don’t often see protagonists that love to write this much. The descriptions she randomly came up with for random things or the way she described writing seemed to put words to a feeling I don’t often try to describe. It actually inspired me to write more and look into the things that I have written! And don’t get me started on the fact that one of the reasons Caz falls for her is because he falls for her writing. That was just…(sigh)…rip my heart out why don’t you?

The Fake:

Loose Threads- There were still so many unanswered questions at the end of the book! This could just be because I loved this book so much and I really didn’t want it to end, but seriously! I wanted to know if there would be backlash from her releasing the true events! I wanted to get more of the relationship between Caz’s co-stars! I just wanted more of every plot and every character!

Misprint- I know I already warned about this in the beginning of the post. I want to say right now that this is NOT the author’s fault! I’ll have to see if the bookstore closest to my house has a bunch of misprints or if I can replace it with a proper copy of the book. I have purchased the e-book version too so that the author will still get my money even if my local bookstore doesn’t have a physical copy that I can replace it with. I really hope it does because the art on the outside of this book is adorable and the book is entirely pastel pink and blue which are my favorite colors! But just make sure that if you go out to buy this book that you throughly flip through it while looking at the page numbers. The best way to see if the copy you just picked up is a misprint is to look for a huge gap in page numbers or if you see page numbers twice. Just beware of this and check your books more thoroughly than I did!

I really hope you pick up this book in some form or find a non-misprint version of this book. This is such an amazing book and I feel like I’ll go back to it several times for quotes and romantic moments or just to read the entire book again! Seriously, read this! It’s both wholesome and completely life changing. Just be prepared to cry if anything that I mentioned before sounds relatable to you!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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