Dating Down


Young Adult - Romance
332 Pages
Reviewed on 08/29/2016
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Katelyn Hensel for Readers' Favorite

Tammy's an all-star. She's smart, rich, funny, and has a drop-dead gorgeous date to the dance...only...that last one is made up. She made up her boyfriend under pressure and now she's down to the wire and unable to procure a real life date. Finding a troubled man desperate enough to pretend to be Ralph Forrester should be hard, but luckily she runs into Gary, whose life is in complete shambles. He agrees to be Ralph for one night, but disaster ensues. Dating Down by Alex Dunn is a cute and quirky romance that does a great job making us laugh, feel, and enjoy ourselves whole-heartedly.

Alex Dunn is a particularly talented writer. I enjoyed her dialogue and romantic interchanges the most, especially because they were unusually witty and fun. The trope of fake boyfriend is a recurring one, and typically falls flat due to its overuse, but Dunn managed to make it feel original and exciting as well. The characterization of the leads was good. Gary is a bit too angst ridden for my tastes, but he plays the part of Ralph well and then really makes Tammy see the need to be a better person. Tammy obviously is quite superficial and flaky at first, but the more you get into the story, the more she grows on you...particularly because she herself is growing too.

Dating Down is a great read if you're looking for a quick bit of fun and romance. It might not have that much depth, but it's funny and sweet, and has the Happily Ever After that many of us need to keep us warm and fuzzy at night. It's got some suspenseful moments and a whole lot of drama to keep you wondering if the couple will get what they are both looking for.

Jack Magnus

Dating Down is a young adult romance written by Alex Dunn. Tamara was getting her hair styled for the school dance when she made a blunder that seemed impossible to correct. As Wendy worked on her hair, Tamara read her newest Trudy Kensington romance novel and wished that she too could have a gorgeous boyfriend like Trudy’s Ralph Forrester. She wished that she were slender and Barbie-perfect like her former friend, Carrie, and Carrie’s new pals who all fitted into size zero dresses and were hyped about going to the dance with their dates. Without even realizing what she was doing, Tammy mentioned to Wendy that she also had a date for the evening with a hot boy named Ralph, and she described the fictional Ralph Forrester to a T. When the girls noticed she was there and rushed over, expressing surprise that Tammy was even getting ready to go, Wendy told them about Ralph -- and Tammy’s heart sank. Now she’d never be able to go on her own as she had planned, unless somehow she was able to find a real-life date to take her.

That evening, when it finally was time for her to leave for the dance, Tammy looked elegant in her designer dress with the sapphire necklace and earring set her mother had loaned her. Dave, her mother’s chauffeur, was driving her to the school when Tammy asked him to stop and leave her near the park. She knew it wasn’t all that safe to wander in the park at night, but she just couldn’t face the jeers and scorn of her classmates once they saw her enter on her own. What could be worse, she wondered, until two awful boys stationed themselves on either side of her. One stole her mother’s necklace while the other began to assault her.

Alex Dunn’s young adult romance, Dating Down, is an absorbing and heartwarming tale about a young woman whose family and social stresses have led her to experience romance only through the books she reads. While she’s the daughter of prominent and wealthy parents, her mother’s obsessed with Tammy’s weight issues, sending her to a fat-farm in the summer and having any photos of her photo-shopped to slenderize her form. Even after the fat-farm, the extra ten pounds Tammy supposedly is carrying has her convinced that she is fat and ugly and that no one would ever want to know her. That is, until she’s rescued by Gary, a tattooed, black-haired goth type with a Cockney accent, who just happens to have the chocolate brown eyes she has always imagined Ralph Forrester to have, and who actually thinks she’s gorgeous. Cinderella-like, she does get to go to the ball, or in this case, the school dance.

Dating Down tackles some serious subjects. Besides the issue of fat shaming and the unhealthy preoccupation with weight issues, Dating Down also examines the issues of child abuse, single parent difficulties, and the sometimes awful things that happen to children in the foster care system. Gary and Tammy are from two very different worlds, but their salvation seems to lie in being each other’s bulwark. Can their relationship survive the lies, disillusionment and bitterness they’re surrounded by? Dating Down addresses that question admirably. This romantic coming of age tale is most highly recommended.

Romuald Dzemo

Dating Down by Alex Dunn is a gripping romance for young adults; it's well-written and filled with drama. Tammy is the kind of woman who needs nothing. She comes from a wealthy background, with enough money to spend. Yes, she can buy herself anything. But she has one big problem: while her friends talk about going to the end-of-term dance with someone, she only has a fictional character, Ralph Forrester, in mind. To make him real, she allows a man with his own pain and wounds to enter her life. On an ordinary day, Gary would be hanging around Vernon’s, “getting drunk, stoned, and laid, preferably in that order.” His loved one, Grace, has died a year earlier from leukemia, so when he gets the chance to play Tammy’s Ralph Forrester, he doesn’t realize what he is getting into. How far can Tammy and Gary continue to play the game?

Dating Down is a beautiful story that depicts, in a powerful way, how far vanity can drive a person. Why is it so important for Tammy to be taken by someone to the end of term dance? Told in a dual narrative style by the protagonists and in the first person, the reader gets drawn into the very pulse of the story. Gary and Tammy are interesting characters. It is easy for readers to want to know what happens to the “thing” between Tammy and Gary. I found the pace a little slower, but the dialogue is engaging and the prose beautiful. Overall, Alex Dunn’s work has great potential and is highly entertaining.

Divine Zape

A beautiful romance for young adults, Dating Down by Alex Dunn features compelling characters in their quest for love and fulfilling relationships. The rich girl, Tammy, is at a loss over what to do on the eve of the end of term dance when all her friends talk about being taken to the dance by someone. In fact, she’d want to be taken by Ralph Forester, however, the problem is that Ralph Forester only exists in books. But then there is Gary, whose wife he’d loved for years died of leukemia a year ago. Tammy sees in him the perfect candidate for the game she plans to play. Both Tammy and Gary are unaware of the path they will have to walk after an innocent joke to satisfy her whims.

I loved the simplicity and beauty of the language, which is plot driven. The plot is simple and it seems the author invested more time building conflict and characters. I’d have loved to see the character of Grace developed in greater detail because one of the main protagonists keeps making references to her. Powerful themes such as love and friendship, grief, family, and deceit are well developed throughout the story. The chapters are short and the story is told in the first person narrative by Gary and Tammy, a style that Alex Dunn seems very comfortable with, and one that helps the reader to get into the heart of the story and the viewpoint of the key characters without any problem. Dating Down is an entertaining, fast read.

Arya Fomonyuy

Dating Down by Alex Dunn is a light romance that reflects the world of young adults. It’s a beautiful story of how little jokes can grow to staggering proportions and call for serious commitment. When Tammy reaches out to Gary, it is in desperate need to have a man accompany her to the end of term dance. The young, rich and vain girl has always fancied a man like the fictional character Ralph Forester, a character she reads about, but there are no Ralph Foresters in the real world. Here the author replays again the common reality of a one-night-stand turned into a longing for a serious relationship. Gary and Tammy may just want to have occasional fun, but the effects could be troubling, even devastating.

Dating Down by Alex Dunn is a simple story simply told. Although the book doesn’t have the stunning surprises one would expect in mystery novels or in thrillers, it does feature an interesting plot driven by a huge conflict. Gary is a character that readers will easily sympathize with, a man who has lost a very significant other to leukemia, and is struggling to bring some discipline into his life. The journey he makes with Tammy is interesting. It is also interesting to see how Tammy becomes aware of Gary’s predicament and goes beyond her selfish reasons to try to fit into his family. The writing is beautiful, filled with intelligent and interesting dialogues. It’s one of the books I’d recommend to anyone looking for a light and enjoyable read in the romance category.