Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Fake-Up, the brand new novel from Justin Myers. Having another bit of a reading shake up – determined to read more books by new to me authors this year and to step away from crime fiction a little more – and so this seemed like a very good place to divert to. It’s a big happy publication day to the author and thank you to publisher Sphere for the advance copy of the book. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
TWO EXES. ONE BIG SECRET. LET THE GAMES BEGIN…
Dylan and Flo are in love. The only trouble is, they broke up months ago and everyone was delighted for them.
At first, it’s exciting sneaking around, hiding from disapproving friends, climbing through bedroom windows to avoid family, and concocting hilarious disguises. It’s like Romeo and Juliet. With more sex and less poison.
But soon it becomes harder to separate truth from lies. Dylan and Flo are in way over their heads, and the games have only just begun . . .
Talk about your tangled webs and your star-crossed lovers and a plethora of other Shakespearean sayings. Literally star crossed in this case as, for both Dylan and Flo, their stars are definitely on the rise … but only as long as they are apart from each other. In spite of being very much in love, and from the beginning of the book you can tell that they are, some obstacles are just too big to overcome. Work, friends, family … all conspire against love’s young(ish) dream, but a separation creates a new kind of muse and heartache really does become the making of the pair, but it’s not enough for Dylan and Flo. When they decide to give their relationship another go, it is in secret, deceiving all their loved ones, as being back together doesn’t fit the ‘narrative’ of Flo’s overnight stardom. From here on in, Justin Myers charts the course of their relationship – which definitely does not run smoothly thanks to the ups and downs of life in the public eye.
I really did enjoy getting to know Flo and Dylan over the course of the book. The chemistry between them just shone from the very start of the book, but it was also clear that as much as they loved each other, and as much as they worked hard at their relationship, sometimes the gap between them, the differences in their upbringing and the attitudes of their friends and family – mostly Flo’s it has to be said – became all too apparent. Dylan is an honest, working class lad from Yorkshire, trying to make it as an actor. Flo runs her mother’s shop and does gigs on the side, but her background is decidedly more middle-class and there is a feeling of Dylan just not being good enough for her in the opinion of those around her. There were times I wanted to shake the pair of them, tell them to get a grip and to tell their family and friends to wind their necks in, although both times Flo tries that it doesn’t necessarily end too well. Then there is Dylan whose own doubts about being good enough lead him to make a very big decision, one that does have very life changing, and often humorous longer term consequences.
There is a very varied cast of characters around Dylan and Flo who bring really life, colour and texture to the book. On Dylan’s side, we have best friend Max , who has been by his side since childhood. Max has his own issues to deal with, not least of which is an estrangement from his family due to him being gay. The kinship between them is touching and often adds its own laughs, but there are some rather poignant moments too, a good number of which are based around Max’s sexuality. The subject of sexuality and representation in the media and in life as a whole, is really sensitively handled and blends well into the narrative, especially when Max finds himself a touch of romance too. There there is Ciara McLean. Tough, independant and one of the most notorious actors on Dylan’s new series, she is the epitome of every stereotype you see on tv when a strong woman is represented. And yet, her character is carefully handled too, and there is far more to her than initially meets the eye. Between Ciara and Max we get a view of two very current, very relevant issues of modern life, played out in a way that really does get you thinking about how quickly we rush to judgment when it comes to others, and how much we can be manipulated by the media.
When it comes to Flo, she has her own entourage who manage to shake things up quite a bit. I’m not going to lie, I struggled with them – totally not my kinds of people. It’s very clear that they are dedicated to Flo, which is perhaps their one redeeming quality, but they really don’t make life easy for her or Dylan. Both Flo’s mother and her best friend Estelle, make it quite clear how they feel about Dylan, and although her mother is perhaps a touch more open in her criticism, the subtle, and not so subtle, barbs really do hit where it hurts. Then we have brothers Sonny and Jesse. Chalk and cheese as far as personalities go, but both know exactly what Flo is going through with her new found fame, and provide support when it is needed. It’s Jesse who I liked the most, and there is something more honest about him than any of the other people in #TeamFlo, even if he is nursing a few secrets of his own. But no matter which of the characters we meet, each are vibrant, authentic and original, and all certainly serve to make our love-struck duo’s lives far more complicated.
There is a lot of humour in the book, as well as some very serious moments in which we are brought front and centre to some very emotive storylines. I’m not meaning the on again, off again romance between Flo and Dylan, although this is certainly key, but how much of themselves they have to hide or give up in order to maintain their success. Many of their attempts to meet did make me smile, and I felt a good deal of sympathy for them as they try hard to stay together when everyone around them is trying to reinforce how much better they are apart. Some of the flare ups between them, designed to keep people off the scent, feel a touch too real, and this very modern Romeo and Juliet story does have a sting in its tail. As well as a kink or two, ones that certainly made me smile.
With great characters, a witty, frustrating, thought provoking and sometimes emotional narrative, this book has something for all rom-com lovers. Set in a fictionalised version of the worlds of tv and music, I can’t help feeling that amongst all of the dramatic license, there may also be a small glimmer of truth behind some of what happens in this book. It kept me amused from start to finish and I know I’ll be reading more from this author in future.
About the Author
Justin Myers is a writer from Shipley, Yorkshire, who now lives in London. After years working in journalism, he began his popular blog The Guyliner in 2010. Justin spent five years writing dating and relationship advice for Gay Times, before joining British GQ as a weekly columnist in 2016. His work has appeared in a number of publications including the Guardian, The i, Sunday Times Style and the Irish Times.