~ Book Review: Not Here to Stay Friends (ARC) ~

Expected publication April 4, 2023

Author: Kaitlyn Hill

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.

After reading quite a few novels based on The Bachelor, the young adult version by Kaitlyn Hill, Not Here to Stay Friends, intrigued me. Sloane McKinney has been best friends with Liam Daniels since childhood. When Liam and his family moves away to California, Liam and Sloane have kept in communication, although they miss seeing each other in person. They finally have a chance to see each other when Sloane visits Liam in California. Unfortunately, Liam has been roped into working as a PA by his TV Producer father, which means there won’t be a lot of time for the two of them to complete their to-do list. After one of the contestants on the new show that Liam’s father is producing, “Aspen Wood’s Future Leading Lady,”
 drops out, Sloane is set to fill in as one of the 25 leading ladies.

When Liam and Sloane reunite, they have immediate chemistry, but neither wants to rock the friendship. With the addition of Sloane being on the dating show where Aspen is the suitor, it complicates their relationship. With their initial meeting, it took out any stakes in the story as it seemed too obvious that Aspen is just there to be an extra character. While I don’t mind knowing ahead of time who the characters will choose, I love the journey to get there, and I feel this story took it out. This is not my style as I love the slower burns since they give more tension, but other readers may love this approach as it is one not seen in a lot of stories. Their attractions due to, what seemed like, glow-ups, did not quite sit right as it started to feel like the two of them would not be romantically interested in each other if they weren’t “hot.” It may not have been the intention, but the novel made it seem that the reasons for attraction was looks like their personalities weren’t that different and there were no other factors given to the reader to explain the sudden reason for wanting to be a couple.

As the story is told from the POVs of both Sloane and Liam, I wish there were more flashbacks or references to their lives during their time apart. Sure, they digitally communicated, but I wanted more information into how they spent the other moments and how they affected each of them. If you are used to going to the movies with your friend and suddenly you aren’t physically together, you can still see them separately and talk about it, but it is not the same. Despite the missing details in the story, I do love how the actual romance developed between the two characters. They complimented each other well and I rooted for them throughout the story. Hill’s writing style is very smooth as it was enjoyable and easy to follow. The general concept was an interesting twist as the ages of the characters are something different than its source material (a ya book based on an adult show). Overall, I enjoyed this introduction to the author and would read more from her in the future.

**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Delacorte Press, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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