Eric and Mia (his “Emmy”) have been friends for years, both having a bit of what they thought was an unrequited crush on each other. Eric’s always held back because he was overweight and never imagined Mia could like him that way, and Mia’s kept her feelings to herself ever since she was about to pour her heart out to him, only to find him with a new girlfriend. But now that they’re older, not necessarily wiser, and going to be roommates for the summer, she’s hoping they might finally be able to take that next step beyond friendship.
The Verdict: The Real Thing wasn’t quite the feel-good romance I was expecting, but it still had a happy ending, and I definitely enjoyed it. As usual with Cassie Mae’s books, there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and general silliness, and it’s what I love most about her writing. Not quite at the level of Switched, but still a lot of fun — mostly.
Mia’s social media addiction is frighteningly realistic. We all know those people who immediately send every photo to Facebook and Instagram, who seem to voice every thought online, and she’s very definitely one of those people. But it’s certainly an addiction, to the point that she gets sucked into online conversations and blurbs for hours and ends up ignoring everything around her, even Eric. It’s interesting to watch someone jeopardize the most important thing in her life over something that’s so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, it’s easy to see how she became so dependent on social media and the internet in the first place; with her father on extended ventures at sea and her best friend/crush across the ocean for about a year, digital communication understandably became something of a lifeline for her.
And Eric, for all his being the sweet, once overweight but now hot as hell best friend, isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. He suffers from panic disorder a few notches shy of agoraphobia, and thanks to that one awful girlfriend back in high school, he’s so damned insecure and afraid of even trying anything physical that even when he and Mia finally give romance a go, he’s crippled by panic attacks and practically unable to touch her. Mia’s so distracted by her online life, though, that she doesn’t exactly see what’s going on, and she misses the chance to find out because she’s online when he’s trying to come clean with her. And that’s where this stopped being a feel-good romance.
There were plenty of moments that I was cracking up at the things Mia thought and did, and that kept it a bit lighter, but we’re still talking about a serious mental disorder, and as someone who lives with one about ten times worse than Eric’s, it was a tough read for me. It wasn’t bad; in fact, I was impressed by how accurate it was. But it was a more serious issue than I expected to find in my reading escape, so it dampened my enjoyment a little, almost certainly because it hit home for me personally.
In any case, I did love the book, and I especially appreciate that an author I respect included an issue like this in a way that was both realistic and devoid of the usual stigma. Generally when I find a mental disorder in a book, it’s ridiculously exaggerated or unrealistically portrayed, or even worse, it’s used to explain the villain. But Cassie Mae attributed it to a loveable character and simply stitched it into his life in much the way it happens for real people. Seeing the happily ever after finally come to fruition simply showed that these issues can be dealt with and made the drama all worth it.
***FicCentral received this book from Random House LLC (via NetGalley) for free in exchange for an honest review. Even so, we're far too opinionated to let a freebie influence our thoughts or the contents of the reviews we post here.