Review Take Two: The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise

Monday, June 10, 2013
Title: The Boyfriend App
Author: Katie Sise
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 320 (ARC edition)
Published: April 30 2013
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 3/5

In The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise, super-smart, somewhat geeky Audrey McCarthy can’t wait to get out of high school. Her father’s death and the transformation of her one-time BFF, Blake Dawkins, into her worst nightmare have her longing for the new start college will bring.
But college takes money. So Audrey decides she has to win the competition for the best app designed by a high schooler—and the $200,000 that comes with it. She develops something she calls the Boyfriend App, and suddenly she’s the talk of the school and getting kissed by the hottest boys around. But can the Boyfriend App bring Audrey true love?

Reviewed by Danielle

The Boyfriend App
 is a novel in two parts, literally, and while I liked parts of both individually, it never came together as a whole. 

Part one revolves around Audrey McCarthy, a straight-A high school senior and hacker who is counting the days until she can put everything behind her and move on to college. Someplace where no one knows about her social fall at the hands of her mean-girl ex-bff, obsession with her lucky rabbit’s foot, or her dad’s tragic death. Her currently reduced social status has marked her a “trog”, or one of the computer kids, and the target of much mockery. That all changes when 
Apple, sorry, Public announces a scholarship contest, offering $200,000 to the creators of the most innovative and downloaded apps for their popular buyPhone. Already struggling to live on her now-single mom’s lunch lady salary, Audrey sees her opportunity for escape.

The first half revolves around her brainstorming and developing the eponymous app, while navigating high school cliques and possible romantic feelings for her friend Aiden. It’s very sweet and readable and Audrey comes off (mostly) authentic. The app is essentially a Myspace survey that alerts the girl to when a guy with a high score is nearby so she can ask him out. Her first match is a smashing success and The Boyfriend App gains a large following on Twitter and the rest of the blogosphere. 

That is, until the breakups start. 

And that takes us to the second part of the novel, which goes completely off the rails with a plot of conspiracies, subliminal stimuli, and blackmail. In another book, one more sci-fi than contemporary, perhaps, I could appreciate the far-fetched plot. In this novel, it just didn’t gel with the first half. I did prefer the larger conflict to yet another confrontation between Audrey and the mean twins, and as incredible and coincidental as it all was, the conspiracy theory isn’t the most outrageous I’ve ever heard. I can see an appeal to those with a more anti-consumer nature. After the trip out to California, however, the plot really fell down as the author struggled to pull a happy ending out of the quagmire the story had become. I almost wish it ended a few chapters earlier, though we would have had to sacrifice some loose ends, because the dragged out confrontations, further blackmail, eleventh-hour new characters, were all too much.

As for content, I’m always thrilled when a book includes queer characters, but TBA seems a little confused on the concept. With the original app, you just fill out a survey and it matches you with a nearby male with similar interests. Both people have to download the app, but only the woman gets the alert of the match so she can approach the guy. So how does that work for the gay couple seen using it? And later, when the app 2.0 can ONLY be downloaded by female users, the resulting orgy seems to again include the gay couple. Sise is aware that gay men are not women, correct? 

Additionally, when Audrey’s technology teacher, Ms.Bates, asks her to accompany her to New York to see an old friend who may be able to deus ex machina us out of an unwinnable scenario, neither Audrey nor the reader really needed the, “she’s not just my old roommate, she’s my ex-lover,” speech. I feel pretty certain that any teacher offering that information unsolicited in a public school will no longer be working there.

Mostly though, I wish more time had been devoted to what a Very Bad Thing the 2.0 app was. Brainwashing and sexual assault, (and let’s not be coy, even if all the boys wanted it, [no.] that’s what Annborg did to Blake,) even in a fictional setting, should never be condoned. Why wasn’t Audrey expelled after the riot in the lunch room? Punished for all that PDA? Grounded after the concert video went viral? No adult ever cares about Audrey or her app until she’s accused of having stolen it. THEN we get concerned teachers trying to clear her good name. She broke her dad’s commandment of hacking and DID hurt people and I didn’t feel like the book ever treated it as such. In the end, all her wishes still come true.

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