Review: Not Here to Stay Friends by Kaitlyn Hill

  • Title: Not Here to Stay Friends
  • Author: Kaitlyn Hill
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • Release Date: 4/4/23
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • Rating: ★★★.5
  • Publisher’s Summary: This friends-to-lovers spin on The Bachelor follows two childhood besties reuniting to spend the summer in L.A. after five years apart—but when they both get involved with a teen reality dating show, their lives take an unexpected turn for the unreal. Sloane McKinney feels like a background character in her own life. But this summer will be different, because she’s spending it with her childhood best friend, Liam Daniels, in her dream city, Los Angeles. Sure, she’s surprised to find that Liam just happens to have had a Hot Guy glow-up since she last saw him, but so what? A little attraction won’t ruin her plans for their fun—and completely platonic—reunion. What might, however, is that Liam has been roped into working for his producer dad’s new teen reality dating show, Aspen Woods’s Future Leading Lady. Liam figures Sloane can still hang out with him on set while he fetches coffee for the film crew, or whatever it is that production assistants do. Except it turns out the show is one contestant short . . . and Sloane is the perfect last-minute addition. Once cameras are rolling, the whirlwind of dating teen heartthrob Aspen Woods feels way more real than Sloane expected, and Liam doesn’t exactly enjoy watching it all unfold. But it’s behind the scenes where the drama really picks up. . . .Because wanting to kiss your best friend? That’s a plot twist neither Sloane nor Liam ever saw coming.

I really liked Kaitlyn Hill’s first book, Love from Scratch, and I was excited to read her next book, Not Here to Stay Friends.

Both books center around reality television – Love from Scratch centers around a television station similar to the Food Network, and Not Here to Stay Friends features a televsion show that has a lot in common with The Bachelor Franchise.

Not Here to Stay Friends begins with a reference to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” as Sloane lands at LAX. This made me laugh and immediately drew me into the story. It is also reflective of the lighthearted tone of the entire novel.

I was a little uncomfortable about the idea that Aspen Woods’s Future Leading Lady is a dating show featuring teenagers. It is well known that shows like that thrive off manipulation of its contestants, and it felt wrong to put teenagers into an environment like that. It also bothered me that Liam’s dad manipulates Sloane into participating by promising to help promote her interest in screenwriting if she makes it to the top four on the show.

This discomfort was only exacerbated by the fact that Sloane clearly has no interest in Aspen and that Aspen doesn’t treat her (or the other contestants) very well. Aspen pushes Sloane to kiss him before she is comfortable and also says unkind things about the other people he’s dating to her. He’s set up to be so unlikable that it feels wrong that so many people would be fighting for his attention.

Friends to lovers is my favorite romance trope, and I rooted from Sloane and Liam the whole way through the story. In fact, it is so clear that they have feelings for each other from the first time they are reunited at the beginning of the book that it was almost hard to wait for them to get it together.

Liam and Sloane rotate and narrating the story, and the reader is immediately privy to their romantic feelings for one another. When Sloane first sees him at the airport, her brain has to “recalibrate” because he “seems so much more…grown up than the Liam who lives in my phone” In the next chapter Liam describes Sloane as “a person who is noticeable, unavoidably not unattractive.” The fact that Sloane almost immediately starts dating another guy on TV obviously creates conflict and obstacles, but it’s obvious even to the other people in the cast and crew of the show that Liam and Sloane are supposed to be together.

It is clear how much Liam cares about Sloane. He helps Aspen by telling him about things Sloane likes that can be used on the show. Liam also pushes back when Aspen suggests a date that he knows will make Sloane uncomfortable and takes care of Sloane when she has an extreme allergic reaction on a date.

Without spoiling too much, I will say that the ending of Aspen Wood’s Future Leading Lady is extremely satisfying. It made me wish that it was a real TV show, so that I could actually watch it play out as it is described.

Katilyn Hill’s writing is entertaining and funny, and I look forward to seeing what she writes next. I will say that I enjoyed Love from Scratch a little more than Not Here to Stay Friends.

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