The Boyfriend App
by Katie Sise
Original Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Length: 312 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
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?
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.
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.