ARC review: The Dating Game by Kiley Roache

The Dating Game by Kiley Roache
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

The Social Network gets a romantic twist in this fresh and engaging new read from the author of Frat Girl, Kiley Roache. Experience the whirlwind ups and downs of college life in this authentic and entertaining new novel!

When a notoriously difficult class for future entrepreneurs leads to three freshmen developing the next “it” app for dating on college campuses, all hell breaks loose…

Type A control freak Sara lives by her color-coordinated Post-it notes.

Rich boy Braden wants out from under his billionaire father’s thumb.

Scholarship student Roberto can’t afford for his grades to drop.

When the three are forced to work together in one of the university’s most difficult classes, tension rises to the breaking point…until, shockingly, the silly dating app they create proves to be the most viable project in class. Late nights of app development, interest from investors and unexpected romance are woven into a true-to-life college drama that explores what it means to really connect online and IRL.

I was really excited when I saw that Kiley Roache’s new novel was available on Netgalley. I really enjoyed her debut, Frat Girl, when I read it last year and had been looking forward to reading more from her. One of the things that I most enjoyed about Frat Girl was the way that it addressed real college issues and stereotypes while still being a really entertaining book with a great message. My hopes for The Dating Game were pretty high — made even higher, possibly, by the fact that it features a main character named Sara who loves color-coordinated Post-It notes (actually me) — but unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

I think the biggest problem that I had with this book was how unfinished it felt. The idea of the plot is good. I love the concept of a bunch of college kids struggling to come up with an idea for their class and accidentally creating a really popular app. It’s a really fun idea and I think it could have been a really fun book. But it wasn’t.

The thing is, the app is just disgusting. It’s an app like Tinder, but you get graded for your ratio of left vs. right swipes, and you get penalized if someone you match with unmatches with you. This predictably causes a bit of drama on this college campus and quickly turns into girls crying on the sidewalk because their ranking dropped when their boyfriend broke up with them. And not only is the whole idea of the app disgusting, but you should hear their ideas for advertising! “Oh, when someone’s rating starts dropping, we’ll show them ads for gym memberships and makeup.” REALLY? This isn’t even challenged.

There’s also what I’m assuming is supposed to be a big plot twist toward the end that’s just… forgive me for saying this… bad. It doesn’t make sense. It would never happen in the real world. I mean, granted, most of what happens in this book would never happen in the real world. I wish I could give some spoilers here, but this is an ARC review, so I’m trying very hard not to do that.

So, I think I’ve established that the plot is a little questionable. There were also so many mistakes! Some mistakes are to be expected in an ARC, but this was just beyond what’s normal. I’m talking about names being changed in the middle of a scene. Personalities changing. A character that wasn’t even present in a scene suddenly saying something. Typos and word usage problems. This is not what I expect from a publisher like Harlequin.

I also want to mention something that kind of bothered me every time I saw it, and that was Instafriend. At one point, a character mentions scrolling mindlessly through the blue and white screen of Instafriend. I think it’s pretty clear that they’re referring to a fictionalized Facebook. And that’s fine! Except that a few chapters later, Facebook is a thing. But so is Instafriend? It was just odd.

Now, with all of that said, you’re probably wondering why I gave this book two stars instead of one star when I so clearly disliked it. The reason is that I could hardly put it down! It’s a very readable book and if I didn’t have to do things like sleep in order to be a functional adult, I probably could have finished it in one night.

I have hopes that the finished version of this book will have gone through some rigorous edits to correct a lot of the issues I had with it. I can’t really recommend it, but I would be really interested in hearing from anyone who reads the final, published version.

#killingthetbr: four months on shelf

Have you read The Dating Game? Is it on your TBR?
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ARC review: Frat Girl by Kiley Roache

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Cassie Davis never would’ve been able to afford college if she hadn’t been chosen for the prestigious Stevenson scholarship, which provides funding for groundbreaking research. Cassie’s project is on the problematic nature of fraternities and she plans to research it by going undercover as the first female pledge in Delta Tau Chi’s history.  DTC is the most troublesome of all campus frats, having been in the news for their offensive and sexist practices, so this is sure to be some story.

Okay, so I have some mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I loved the writing. I found it easy to read, I thought it flowed really well, and I connected with the characters. On the flip side, the beginning feels more like a crash course on feminism than a YA contemporary about college life and while I didn’t necessarily have a problem with that, I can see it alienating some readers.

Anyway, I love that more YA is heading toward the college experience. I think it’s important to remember that 18-to-22-year-olds (college students) are still technically young adults and there’s a definite absence of literature that tackles their specific experience. Sure, there’s a lot of new adult set in college, but NA tends to focus more strongly on sex and relationship drama whereas YA is usually more focused on the big picture.

That said, I actually loved the little side romance. I thought it was adorable! It broke up what could have easily been a very heavy book about misogyny and sexism. I loved that Jordan was a frat boy who was also a legitimately good guy. I also really appreciated that a book that focuses on feminism included this little side romance because, for some reason, a lot of people are under the impression that feminism is inherently anti-male. Feminists are allowed to get crushes and flirt and have boyfriends, so thank you, Kiley Roache!

This book is a little long for contemporary YA (~450 pages) but I actually ended up wanting more! I would’ve loved to see more interaction with Cassie’s advisor since a lot of the time it seemed like this 18-year-old girl was just dumped in the wilderness of a fraternity and left to fend for herself. I also would’ve liked to see the Stevenson people play a bigger role since they really only seemed to pop up to create drama.

Another thing that I would have liked – and other reviewers have brought this up as well – is for Cassie to have tackled typical hazing practices on top of the sexism. Cassie is rightfully upset by the sexism inherent in Greek life and she does her part to call it out when she sees it, but she goes along with the hazing rituals of binge drinking and humiliation without batting an eye.

I’m almost done with this review, but I just wanted to mention the side characters for a second. I already mentioned that I really connected with Cassie and thought Jordan was adorable, but there are also other really great side characters! Duncan acted as Cassie’s unofficial older brother/bodyguard in the frat and he was such a great guy. Cassie’s best friend, Alex, was a great character even when her actions were so frustrating. And Peter, the president of the frat, actually ended up being one of my favorite characters. We only got to see little glimpses of him but I would love to read a whole book about him.

Overall, I thought that Frat Girl was a great debut – and a great all-around book – from an inspiring author who’s still in college! The book kept me on the edge of my seat as I wondered how and when Cassie would be found out. I both loved and hated this since it created drama and kept me interested but it stressed me out so much! Let’s just say that it didn’t go the way I thought it would and Roache kept me on my toes for the whole book. Highly recommended.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

I received a free advance copy of Frat Girl from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for my honest review.