Review: “The Back-Up Girlfriend” by Emma Doherty

Book Title: The Back-Up Girlfriend

Author: Emma Doherty

Series: Grove Valley High, Book 2

Rating: 4⭐

Release Date: October 15th, 2020

Goodreads | (Available on KU)

Synopsis: Abigail Baker’s life is in shambles. She might be the most popular girl on campus, but she’s failing school and she’s unable to handle seeing her ex-boyfriend move on with someone else. To most, she’s just a mean girl, but Abigail is so much more and has more to offer. But how is she going to prove that to everyone else and herself? And mostly this guy she never imagined herself having feelings for?

Review: It’s been a really long time since I’ve read YA contemporary romance and one that I quite enjoyed. There’s a redemption ARC in this story which actually makes it more interesting than just being another popular girl falls for a nerd story. I really enjoyed the character growth and the incredible friendship in the story. However, the romance part of the story left a little to be desired. It’s all there in the periphery, but it takes a long time before it comes to the surface and by then you’ve gotten so involved in the platonic relationships, the romantic one doesn’t matter as much. But that was my only issue with the book, since the rest of it completely captivated me.

“People just have all these opinions about others, and it’s bullshit. No one needs to judge anyone else and decide what they are.”

So you’ve got Abigail Baker – captain of the cheerleading squad, popular girl on campus and also incredibly beautiful. She’s dealing with a lot right from the start – her ex is happily in love with someone else, she’s failing and if she doesn’t get her shit together she won’t graduate and she’s questioning her friendships. It’s a lot for a high school student to deal with, but also pretty normal. Her home life is complicated and messy and that’s really the part of the book that makes you feel bad for Abigail and where you start connecting with her more. Since this book is entirely from Abigail’s perspective, you don’t really get to see how everyone else perceives her, which might have been more clear had I read the first book in the series. But this still works well as a standalone, since it covers a lot of bases.

Brett Sanderson is the smartest person at school and he’s been tutoring people and helping them get better over the years. You know that he’s Abigail’s love interest (because the blurb tells you so), but there’s just so much strife between them from the start, it takes a while for that to build up. While we see Brett through Abigail’s eyes, I feel like we don’t get to really understand him that much. Sure, we learn about his family and his life and everything, but I wish we got more of Brett’s PoV, it might have been interesting to see how he felt about Abigail too.

Abigail and Brett make a deal; if he tutors her and helps her graduate, she will set him up on a date with her friend Sasha and introduce him to her father. And the whole time, Abigail is fixing friendships, making new friends and just finding a way to make this new life work for herself. And like I said before, watching Abigail grow and become a better person was truly one of the best parts of this book.

But the love in this book isn’t what exists between Abigail and Brett, it’s the love of friends. It’s high school, so everyone falls in and out of friendships and cliques are formed and mean girls reform and others become meaner. There’s lots of backstabbing and snatching away crushes and doing stuff that you would certainly roll your eyes at. However, there are lots of positives. Watching Abigail and her ex work it all out and stay friends, seeing how she is welcomed into the arms of her ex’s new girlfriend and best friend and how she creates a bond with friends she’s already had. Those were the parts that really stuck with me.

Emma Doherty has definitely created an interesting group of characters, but there were a lot. At one point, there were names I was confusing and getting a little lost. I hope that by introducing all of these characters they get their own books and stories to tell, because that would be a cool way to carry this on. On one level, it’s your typical YA contemporary romance set in high school, but at the same time, it’s got more to offer than your standard YA romance. Like I said before, I wish there was more romance to offer than what we got.

Thanks to Emma Doherty & Wildfire Marketing Solutions for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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