A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Janelle Milanes' Analee, In Real Life is a contemporary coming-of-age novel about an introverted high schooler, Cuban American Analee, who agrees to a fake relationship with her popular lab partner to help him win back his ex and boost her confidence to tell her online best friend that she's in love with him. There's occasional strong language (including "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole"), a few make-out scenes, and some references to lust, premarital sex, and birth control -- but no actual sex scenes. The novel should appeal to fans of To All the Boys I've Loved Before and similar stories.
What's the story?
ANALEE, IN REAL LIFE by Janelle Milanes chronicles the life of introverted high school gamer Analee ("pronounced ah-nuh-LEE"), who has lost a lot in the past two-and-a-half years: first her mother to cancer, and then her best friend, Lily, to a popular boyfriend. Analee's home life is complicated, and the only solace she finds is in her multiplayer online game with her new best friend and internet crush, Harris (he's in Seattle, she's in Florida). Not only is Analee still mourning the death of her mother, but she has to put up with her father's perfectly zen live-in girlfriend, Harlow, a yoga teacher and lifestyle vlogger, and Harlow's pesty 8-year-old daughter, Avery. Things change when Analee is assigned overconfident soccer hotshot Seb Matias as her biology lab partner and realizes he's having a tough time getting over being dumped by queen bee Chloe. Seb proposes they pretend to date in order to make Chloe jealous and help Analee come out of her shell, learn how to speak in public, and possibly tell Harris the truth about her feelings. But the more Analee and Seb fake their relationship, the more it begins to feel real.
Is it any good?
A spin on the fake-relationship story makes this contemporary romantic comedy an enjoyable read. The Pygmalion-like aspect should please readers of books like To All the Boys I've Loved Before. There are some predictable beats in the story -- for example, the "just for appearances" relationship between Analee and Seb obviously leads to real feelings, and there's a love triangle, although slightly skewed in one direction -- but Milanes still surprises readers in a few unexpected (and not altogether happy) ways. In fact, readers who demand happily ever afters may be disappointed with the open-to-interpretation ending. What is welcoming about those twists, however, is that they all help Analee see more clearly what she needs and wants.
Readers from blended families will appreciate the honesty with which Milanes depicts the difficulties but also joys of accepting and growing to love a stepparent and stepsibling. It's touching to witness how hard Harlow works to gain Analee's trust and how eager Avery is to spend time with her. The representation of Cuban American life in Florida is especially authentic, with frequent mentions of that culture's cuisine, faith, family expectations, and more. Analee and her former best friend Lily are estranged, so there are no aspirational girl-friendship goals in the book. But it does offer plenty to consider about how to repair friendships, overcome fears to try new things, and open yourself up to experiences and people.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fake relationship in Analee, In Real Life. Why is this such a popular subgenre in young adult literature? What are some of your favorites?
Who, if anyone, do you consider a role model in the book? What character strengths do they exhibit?
Do you agree with Analee's decision at the end of the book? What path would you have chosen?
- Author: Janelle Milanes
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- Publication date: September 24, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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