Monday, January 20, 2014

ARC Review: Something Real

by Heather Demetrios
3.5/5 stars
Henry Holt and Co, 2014
403 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release February 4, 2014

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I believe this book caught my attention because of its unusual synopsis which had the trademark symbol after the main character's name. What was going on with that? Then there was the fact that it looked to be exploring the psychological effects of reality shows. Though the closest I get to reality TV now is watching the mocking The Soup, for some reason I find it difficult to resist books that feature them.

In this case, Bonnie Benton has grown up in front of television cameras; in fact she was born on film, the only one of her twelve siblings to be so. She has two older siblings and the rest are younger, adopted from around the world due to her mother's desire to have a baker's dozen of children and the muscle and money of corporation MetaReel who have subsequently filmed every year of Bonnie™'s life until her thirteenth year when her suicide attempt shut production down. However it has been four years and they're restarting it to Bonnie™'s intense dislike. Her struggle to cope and escape from the hell of this filming comprises the narrative of this novel.

The book actually opens with Bonnie™incognito as Chloe tense over something as seemingly simple as getting a yearbook photo taken because of her years in the spotlight. This anxiety only increases when she discovers that the reality show is starting up again much to the delight of her mother, stepfather, fame-seeking older sister, and the younger kids. The only one who seems to understand is her beloved older brother Benton™who has his own reasons for wanting to stay off camera (underaged Benny drinks and smokes and is gay with a very much in the closet boyfriend.) Adding to her angst is a blossoming romance with Patrick, her long-time crush who she doesn't think will want to be a part of the media frenzy that is her life.

One element I thought was handled very well was the growing up as one of thirteen children. Because most of them are so young, we really only get to see Benton™, Lexie™, and Bonnie™(all seniors) express themselves and I could not name the rest of the children but the chaos of such a life is well conveyed. At one point Chloe/Bonnie™remarks that such an upbringing is excellent birth control and I must agree. I was also pleased with how Chloe and Lexie™bond and move toward rapprochement after years of tension. I guess in general I just loved the relationships between the siblings.

I also appreciated the exploration of growing up on camera (particularly apt as I just saw the People magazine about Kate Gosselin and her twin daughters-what is life going to be like for them as they get older?) I highly value my privacy (notice how I don't tend to share that much about my life? Of course I'm also pretty dull so there's that too :) and can't imagine being on camera that much in addition to having it broadcast for millions of people to see. 

In the end, I feel like I should be rating this book higher but I'm just not passionate about it. There are so many great points: beyond the aforementioned investigation into a highly relevant issue and the complex family relationships explored, there are two great romances, some strong friendships, and some plot twists. But I am not left with the urge to push it on people. You can't click with everything you read and that is the case for me with this book.


  1. I'm a very private person too, and this one definitely intrigued me. Unfortunately, it expired before I finished . . . (Macmillan ARCs have a tendency to do that . . .) I'll have to get it from the library.

  2. Sorry you weren't passionate about this one

  3. It's too bad you didn't feel more passion about this one, but I know what you mean. Sometimes it's hard to even pinpoint what it is that is making the book not quite great.
    This has a wonderful cover! The concept sounds great! It's one I would consider picking up at the library, just to try.

  4. Hm. Interesting premise -- and it seems to be something on the minds of YA authors, since A.S. King's REALITY BOY fits this idea too.

  5. I just read a review of this book that was a positive one and I'm really kicking myself for not grabbing it when I had a chance to review it. I put it on my to-read list already because I think it sounds really interesting. I think I glossed over it before because the cover doesn't make it look as serious as the story sounds. But I like the idea behind it. Great honest review.

  6. I don't know if I really want this one, just because I've read so many books about reality TV and this one doesn't seem any new. I have to applaud you on typing all the TMs in your review! That must have been incredibly time consuming :P

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex


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