by Heather Demetrios
Published on February 4, 2014
by Henry Holt BYR
Synopsis from Goodreads: There’s nothing real about reality TV. Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.So you might be thinking: "Huh? Why is this book included in Jen's theme week on Spies, Alter Egos and Serial Killers? I thought this was contemporary YA about a girl on reality TV?"
It is. However, besides the fact that this book might want give you the urge to kill multiple characters within it, part of the premise is a girl with an alter ego.
I'll get back to that part.
Something Real was one of those books I'd decided to take a pass on. The Hunger Games aside, I haven't had much luck with YA books that have a reality TV element. I've tried books like The Real Real, Countdown, Flash Point, The Selection and Nerve. Some I finished, others I didn't, but none were a great fit for me. So I decided to take a pass on Something Real. But then I kept reading really great reviews for it, so I decided to request it at the library and give it a try. I'm really glad I did.
Something Real is the story of a girl whose large family was the center of a reality TV show. A few years later, she's happily attending high school under a different name with kids who don't recognize her or know about her reality TV past (the promised Alter Ego Element!) Then all that changes and, to her horror, the cameras are going to be back on her again. Will she lose her friends as all her dirty family laundry and personal issues are gleefully rehashed on TV and in the tabloids?
Something Real was sheer pleasure to read, with a relatable main character who has some wonderful family relationships and others that are strained and dysfunctional. She has great, loyal friends. But growing up in the spotlight was tremendously hard for her and now she's stuck between her mom, who needs money, the production company, which is holding the purse-strings, and her own desires for a "normal" life. I found her struggles -- with her parents, the production company, and herself -- very poignant and realistic. Of all the characters in the book, she definitely was the one who showed a huge amount of growth by the end.
Most of the book's other characters fell into the easy-to-hate or easy-to love category. Patrick might be one of the most adorable book boys in the history of book boys. He's like .... a unicorn. Like a cross between Lloyd Dobler and Rob Gordon. He works in a record store and talks about his feelings. Benton and Matt are both super-adorable too. Tessa and Mer are a great pair of best friends and I even grew to like prickly Lexie.
The reality show element of Something Real made me hate myself for ever tuning in for a few episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras or Supernanny. I think that Reality Boy by A.S. King did a great job of showing the Faustian bargain that reality show participants engage in, and when a reality show involves kids who are forced to participate by their parents, the bargain seems even less of a good one.
So -- don't make that mistake, and don't my mistake either and skip this book. If you love contemporary YA, you will definitely want to check out Something Real. It's a surprisingly suspenseful, incredibly charming, delightfully feel-good read. And, you know, this will sound totally meta, but this book would make an amazing movie. Just saying....