Book Review: The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise

Posted January 29, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 15 Comments

 The Boyfriend App

 by Katie Sise

 The Boyfriend App

Original Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Length: 312 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Source: Bought
Format Read In: Kindle book
Purchase on Amazon: The Boyfriend App
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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?

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Note: There may be a minor spoiler in this review. There’s a plot development that happens about halfway through I felt the need to talk about. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a spoiler, but I wanted to forewarn just in case.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been more conflicted on what to rate a book as I am with The Boyfriend App. On one hand, it was a cute and charming read with a fresh premise and a technology-focused female lead–all things I love. On the other, there’s a serious ethical issue in They Boyfriend App that is never addressed, and I would have given almost any other book 1 star for that alone. So let’s talk about the good first, shall we?

Audrey is a fantastic main character. She’s smart, capable, and interesting. She really does have the hacking and technology skills she claims to have, because we see evidence of her using these skills throughout the story. Audrey’s cousin, Lindsay, is a bit of a cliche as a fashion-focus almost-hipster, but I didn’t mind because Lindsay is super great at social media, which I loved, and also they have a wonderful friendship. Friendship in books is always a huge plus for me.

I sighed over the love interest in The Boyfriend App. The actual app definitely proved to set up a road block to relationships, and this made the main love story move nice and slowly. We really got to see the character development before the characters every got together. At this point, The Boyfriend App would have received a solid 4 stars. I mean, great romance, friendship, and a main character? Yes please!

However, about halfway through the book, Audrey realizes she needs to take the app to the next level. So she launches the Boyfriend app 2.0. Girls can use their phones to make boys fall instantly in love–or lust–with them. This sounds weird, but it’s actually explained in The Boyfriend App pretty well, so I didn’t have a problem with the reasoning behind how this technology worked.

The problem is, however, that the girls are completely in control of the app, and once it’s activated, the guys have no control over whether to deny it or not. The girls can just press a button–IT’S ON–and the boy will instantly be head-over-heels in love, happy to make-out or kiss or do ANYTHING for the girl. The girl can stop the app by pressing a button saying IT’S OVER, and everything apparently goes back to normal.

This is totally not okay. The app doesn’t just make a guy look in the direction of the girl who turned the app on–he’s completely infatuated. When Audrey tests the app out in the cafeteria, the guy she uses it on starts kissing her, lifts her up, and lays her down on a cafeteria table. It’s a heavy make-out session, and he had no say in it. At one point, Audrey uses the app to get a guy to do what she wants because she promises if he does, she’ll kiss him. That’s not as bad was what could have happened–the app basically gives girls complete control over the boys.

If the genders were reversed in this situation, it would have NEVER gone over. I mean, can you imagine a book in which a male main character invented an app that men could use to make girls instantly attracted and in lust with them? The lack of agency would be addressed immediately. When this plot element came up in the book, I went along with it because I was certain the ethical issues would be addressed. If this had been clearly shown as wrong and Audrey felt even the tinniest bit of remorse, I could have been fine. But the issue–this huge ethical issue–was never even acknowledged in The Boyfriend App. And frankly, that made me mad and totally ruined a book I loved otherwise.

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I think for The Boyfriend App, I’m going to leave the rating up to you. No cupcakes for this book, which has never happened before. Not because it was a bad book, but just because my mind can’t come to a conclusion. I wanted to love this one–and I DID–but I can’t give The Boyfriend App a high rating with the problematic element that is present the entire second half of the book. It’s simply not okay that Audrey invents an app that basically takes agency away from the guys and never wrestles with the ethics of it.

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15 responses to “Book Review: The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise

  1. I had a problem with this book too. You’re totally right that it had some good points, but that second half really just ruined it for me. I had a hard time rating it too and just ended up putting it in between and giving it 3 stars.

    • stormydawnc

      Yeah, I thought about giving it 3 stars to round it out, but I just couldn’t with that second half. I’m sort of surprised I finished it by the end.

  2. Chantelle

    hahaha oh that’s definitely a dilemma :\ It sounded so cute up until it got so creepy and controlling… You made a really good point about how if the genders were switched, it would be an ever bigger deal, I would’ve been mad too! I might give this one a skip, thanks for the heads up!

  3. To be honest, I wasn’t very interested in reading this book to begin with. Just the premise sounds too fluffy and like something that would never interest me. And apparently I’m even more justified in staying away from this book now. There definitely sound like a number of problematic elements in this book, and that’s even worse that the ethical implications thereof aren’t really examined. That’s a shame.

  4. Oh my goodness, Stormy. You pretty much captured my thoughts about this book. I did like the characters, but I had more of an angry reaction to The Boyfriend App 2.0. I couldn’t really get over it and it overshadowed my enjoyment of the rest of the book. *shudder* My review of this is supposed to go up next week, but yours pretty much sums up my experience in a more intelligent way. 🙂 Love this review!

    • stormydawnc

      Yeah, the 2.0 app was terrible, and I’m really surprised a major publishing house let it slide. And the book was so enjoyable otherwise, but it was a HUGE thing! I look forward to your review, and I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking this way.

      • A lot of my disappointment comes from the fact that, yes, HarperCollins published this. There would have been a significant team of people who read the book before publication, and no one pointed out that it’s condoning sexual assault? Or is it worse to speculate that perhaps someone did mention it, and the publisher ultimately decided it wasn’t problem?

  5. Oh no! The Boyfriend App has been on my TBR pile for awhile, and I was just thinking it might be time to read it. But now, not so much. I would also have huge problems with this Boyfriend App 2.0. You’re right, if the genders were reversed that concept wouldn’t have flown at all.

    Thanks for the honest review.

    • stormydawnc

      Yeah. It saddened me because I was really enjoying the app, but I can’t like something that takes that route. I would have even been okay with it more if there had been a DISCUSSION at some point about how wrong it was, but it never happened. It just felt icky.

    • stormydawnc

      It was really far-fetched, but I didn’t mind that part at all(though it moved it more to science fiction to contemporary). I had a big problem with the ick factor, though.

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