Monday, February 24, 2014

Title: Something Real
Author: Heather Demetrios
Series: n/a
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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, 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 that 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.

Heather Demetrios' Something Real is the winner of the Susan P. Bloom PEN New England Discovery Award.



What has happened to me that all -- well, most of -- the books that I adore lately have been contemporaries?!? I used to despise this genre, but now I can't even remember why. Because now, these are my go-to books. When I'm in a funk or a reading slump or whatever, I pick up a contemp and I'm happily entertained for hours.

With Something Real, I think I'll be entertained for eons. This is the kind of book I can read over and over again. This story garnered ALL THE FEELS from me. And so rather than splitting up my review based on characters and plotting, etc., like I usually would, I'm going to do this one a little differently. I'm going to separate my feelings and what triggered them.

Anger
“Even Mom doesn't understand how being in front of a camera all the time twists and warps you. How one second it makes you feel unbelievably alive and the next publicly strips you down until all that's left is one big question mark.”
First and foremost, my anger comes from being a mother. As a parent, I cannot fathom subjecting a child to being in the spotlight like this, let alone a family consisting of thirteen children. Times are going to be tough as it is, but how does any self-respecting mother do this to her children? Especially considering what one of the eldest has already suffered because of being on a show that is broadcast nationally. Beth Baker-Miller™ is one of the worst kinds of human beings...those who live for attention and don't care about the cost, even when it's their own family. There was not a single redeemable quality in this woman, and what she did or didn't do at the end of this novel made me question whether she even deserved to have the other children in her care.

Also, I have mad hate for the show's producer Chuck, who is the slimiest of all in this story. He manipulates, cajoles, coerces, and threatens, and he is beneath scum. I imagine a lot of reality TV show producers to be of his ilk, and for the sake of everyone who has to deal with swine like this, I am sorry. I'm not a big fan of reality shows, but I imagine it's not as fun to be the subject of them as it might appear or as others make it out to be. I'm rather intrigued by the leaps and bounds this book took to show the behind-the-scenes stuff. On one hand, I hope this is all entirely fictional, but on the other, I'm pretty sure it's not, and I feel awful for ever having watched a single minute of this kind of drivel, entertaining as it might be at times.

Sadness

The main character Bonnie™/Chloe hasn't had the easiest transition from reality TV stardom to normal girl. But she's relatively happy with her normal girl status now that she's starting her second year of public school as a high school senior. Until her mom and stepdad decide to start doing the show again, without consulting any of the rest of the family, that is. Chloe has suffered the most at the hands of the Baker's Dozen show, and you'd think her family would at least have the decency to forewarn her that the show was being picked back up, but aside from her brother Benton™, no one seems to care what this might do to Chloe's fragile state of mind.

Grief

What I hate most is that Bonnie™/Chloe's mother doesn't even notice the repercussions. She thinks her daughter is acting like a typical spoiled teenager who's not getting her way. I don't think Beth Baker-Miller™ realizes that it's taken Chloe four -- FOUR -- years to finally find some amount of normalcy in her life after what happened in the last season of Baker's Dozen. Which makes my heart hurt even more for Chloe. But worse than that, I wished physical violence on this mother and the stepfather she brought into these kids' life after the sh!t hit the fan in that last season. How could any mother be so oblivious, let her own desires outweigh those of her children, whether they come from her loins or not?

More Anger

Which brings me to my next point. The way that everyone allows Chloe to be portrayed on national television is an abomination. Seeing it from Chloe's eyes and then seeing how everything is edited to make it more dramatic, or to make it look as if Bonnie/Chloe™ really is the poster-child for Teenagers Gone Wild, I wanted to do more than cut cords or palm cameras out of Chloe's face. No one deserves to have their whole life on display for strangers like this. It more than borders on child abuse in my opinion. And I'm really glad to see that this aspect wasn't taken lightly in this story. There's even talk of getting the ACLU involved, so kudos.

Happiness

I am unbelievably grateful that Chloe had a sibling like Benny to help get her through all the drama. Beginning, middle, and end...he was there through it all. He pushed Chloe when she needed it, but he also gave her space to do what she needed to do when she wasn't being rational. Benny was her back-up and Chloe was his. I love how out of all the siblings, these two are the closest, have the best connection, and stand by each other, no matter what. I think the only times I laughed in this story with true frivolity -- because of all my fury at the other characters in the story --were when it was just Chloe and Benny hanging out, shootin' the sh!t. Also, Benny drunk is kinda priceless. I'm not condoning underage drinking, per se, but when the situation warrants...

Off-handed Humor

Okay, so I said that I didn't laugh all that much, but I did snicker a lot. Ugh, I hate that word, but it's the best description. Here's why:
"I'm surprised she doesn't get a sunburn from the rays of her own awesomeness," Benny says as she heads to the first floor.

***

There should be a class on what to do with your hands during awkward moments. Like, no other animal has to stand with these ridiculous appendages that make everything worse. Hands are awkward as hell. I watch Tessa disappear down the hall, belonging, being absorbed into the crowd.

***

"Did you apparate here or something? The bell rang two seconds ago."

***

"How was the salon?" Tessa asks, after we're through psychoanalyzing my date. "Did you get claw-the-rapist nails?"
Swoons
"When his lips finally leave mine, his fingertips stay on my cheeks, and he looks at me--really looks at me--for a long time. Five seconds? Minutes? Centuries? Maybe it's the feeling behind his eyes or the way the warmth of that kiss slowly slips back on the tide of our breath, but I suddenly feel like I need to leave. Now."
Benny may have been a great counterpart to Chloe's persistent pessimism, but Patrick brought the swoons and more. We talk about book boyfriends all the time, but usually as in "I would want this guy to be my boyfriend in real life". In this case, I don't think I've met a more perfect guy to be this character's boyfriend. He's patient, forgiving, caring, but he still manages to be a separate entity and not too clingy. A girl should be so lucky as to have a guy like Patrick in her life. He takes all of this reality TV stardom stuff in stride. Patrick does everything he can to make a relationship outside of that world a possibility for Chloe, and I think that without his soothing presence, Chloe might not have managed nearly as well as she did. Also, he gave her the strength to stand up for herself. I know the saying always goes "Behind every great man, there's a great woman", but I think the opposite holds true, as well, especially for this couple. It takes a solid partnership to make any relationship work, and that's what we have here.

Also, there's that scene in the janitorial closet. My god. =)
"Chlo, that boy has forever written all over his face when he looks at you. A cat lady you shall never be."
Another thing I really enjoyed about this novel was all of the extras included: press releases, twitter feeds, blog posts, interviews, etc. And, of course, those cute text messages between Patrick and Chloe on her secret phone. It really lent to the air that this was reality, that this is how life goes for someone in Chloe's position. It also made for an even more entertaining reading, especially how each piece was spun one way or another. This book really makes me sad for all of those kids who were on Jon & Kate Plus 8.
"I'm not Bonnie™ or Chloe. I'm the essence of her, the nontrademarked person the camera can never capture and my parents have no right to sign over. There is a sovereign nation encased in this skin that MetaReel can never trademark."
I am honestly surprised that this novel didn't receive any hype prior to its publication. It is so unbelievably genuine and completely from the heart, and it ranks up there with my favorite YA contemporary novels ever. I don't think I've ever read a novel that compelled me to be one with the narrator and simultaneously feel so much, and I'm really hoping this isn't a one-time deal. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what else Heather Demetrios brings to this genre, and I hope she continues writing with this outstanding voice of hers.

Wow, this review turned out to be way longer than I anticipated, and the sad thing is I haven't said all that I have to say about this lovely book. But you should read it. You should absolutely read it. :D

GIF it to me straight:
Why is no one talking about this book?!?


About the author:

Heather Demetrios, originally from Los Angeles, now lives in Brooklyn and various imaginary locales. She is the recipient of a PEN New England Discovery Award for her debut YA novel about reality TV stardom, SOMETHING REAL (Macmillan/Henry Holt), and is the author of the upcoming EXQUISITE CAPTIVE, a smoldering fantasy about jinn in Los Angeles (#1 in the DARK CARAVAN fantasy trilogy from HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray), both out in 2014. She is currently working on her second novel for Macmillan, a love story about a young combat veteran and a girl trapped in their small town, both struggling to escape the war at home. When she’s not hanging out with her characters, Heather is working on her MFA in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Find Heather:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | YouTube


27 comments:

  1. Wow, Jen! I wasn't all that interested in this book because the subject matter just seemed like it could go in all kinds of directions I didn't care for, but it sounds like this book was filled with a ton of great stuff. Any story that sparks that much emotion (and 5 stars!) has to be worth a look, so thanks for the review. I may have to pick this up sometime.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. Same here...I don't like reality TV at all, but I think this book is more for the person who *doesn't* enjoy it. I like reality TV even less now that I've read this story because I suspect there's a lot of truth in the lies and manipulation presented in the book.

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  2. I WANT IT. It sounds like Cheaper By the Dozen? (Which was hilariously laugh out loud, so the only thing I'm dubious about is that this isn't funnier. Pity.) Contemporary is pretty much my go-to now as well. There's only so much heavy sci-fi one can take before they need some fluff. Not that this sounds fluffy..eeep! I really want to read this. Why haven't I heard of it until now??!!

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    1. I have actually never watched that movie all the way through, but the large family aspect is definitely similar, except that most of the kids in this family are adopted. And this is definitely not a fluffy read...I think the ill-treatment of the older children in the family caused more anger in me than anything else. I haven't heard/seen much hype for this book myself, but I hope to help generate some buzz for it. It was such a refreshing read, so genuine and full of emotion.

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  3. Yes yes yes. I had all the same thoughts as you! Love Benny and Patrick to pieces. I've already read my favorite parts 3-4 times now. :P Great review!

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    1. Well, I knew YOU'D love my review after your glowing praise for this book. :) I've had it on my shelf for a bit, but it was actually your flailing over it that made me finally pick it up. So worth it!

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    2. I feel like I've accomplished something now. :D Glad you loved it as much as me!

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  4. Wait... a 5-star rating for a contemporary from Jen?! I'm so excited about this fact!!! :D That means I WILL be reading this one. Definitely. You know how I adore my contemps... but the fact that you LOVED this one is definitely enough to convince me. Yayy!!! I love when you love contemps. :)

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    1. Don't sound so shocked, Lisa! I kind of love contemporary these days. I can't seem to get enough of it. ;)

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  5. I love that you love contemporary now. <3 It make my heart super happy. :)

    I was hoping this book would go in the more serious/realistic direction. I do love reality tv, but only some. Show's like Survivor, Hells kitchen sometimes. Really Survivor is the only one I really love. But that does not involve children. I guess I'm a selective fan of reality tv.

    The shows following the families, and focusing on the kids. Like toddlers in tiaras and Dance mom. OH and John and Kate plus eight, no thank you. Not that I haven't watched some of them, but I've sat in horror staring at the screen. Brian and I always comment about how these parents can do this to their kids? really? So I think I'll enjoy getting angry reading this one. lol

    I really want to read this one, and I was telling the truth in my tweet, I want to read it even more now that I've read this review.

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    1. I think you'll enjoy getting angry over this one, too. Those shows kill me...no child should be subjected to that. Don't worry, you'll get your chance to read this soon. =)

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  6. Often you and I disagree on contemporaries but I'd still like to give this one a try. It sounds like a lighter version of Reality Boy....
    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. Okay, you'll have to refresh my memory. I'm completely drawing a blank on which ones we've disagreed on. :P I actually haven't read Reality Boy, but I've had a lot of recs for it since this review went live, so I'm thinking I'll have to pick it up soon.

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  7. I like this review even more the second time reading it! We spoke earlier about how I'm not a fan of reality TV at all, but your review has totally convinced me about reading this! I did enjoy Reality Boy-- but like Jen said above-- it's pretty dark and this seems a bit more my speed. There were characters in RB I wanted to THROTTLE-- so I totally, totally understand how you can feel so enraged about the ones in this book too! And it does sound a bit like the family from Cheaper By the Dozen (only not near as charming!)

    Great, heartfelt review, Jen! Can't wait to try this and compare notes:))

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    1. And I can't wait for you to read this, Heather! I just know you're going to love it. The story focuses more on two of the older sibs, so yeah, I don't think it's comparable to Cheaper By the Dozen in that sense, either. But I definitely felt like throttling a few of the characters. Not a single one of the parental units was worth a damn, and it made my heart sick for all of the kids involved.

      Can't wait to discuss this with you! I'm finishing up A Mad, Wicked Folly today so I can send it back with Something Real. :D

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  8. I've been in the mood for more contemporaries lately too. I think they are easier to read and sometimes focus on relationships of all kind and that's what I need sometimes. I wasn't at all interested in this one before but I think I may need to check it out now!

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    1. There are a lot of different kinds of relationships in this book, Sara, so if that's what you're in the mood for, I definitely suggest Something Real. I'm serious...I felt every emotion under the sun while reading this book.

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  9. Good gravy! My emotions were touched and that was just from reading your review. I've seen the cover before, but didn't get curious enough to see what it was about. Now I want to read it. Thanks!

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    1. Yay! I'm glad that came through loud and clear in my review. :) I'd had it on my shelf for awhile before another fangirly review made me give it a try.

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  10. Great to hear this is a 5 star review for you. Usually for me, longer reviews than anticipated means I either hated or totally loved it, so glad to see it on the loved side! I just love the cover and the book sounds so adorable, I'm glad it lives up! Definitely can't wait to get my hands on it. Lovely Review Jen!

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    1. Same here. But I much prefer going on ad nauseam because I actually enjoyed the book, not because I loathed it. :) I hope you enjoy this novel as much as I did!

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  11. First, I have to say that I'm pretty tickled that you went from despising contemporaries to loving them. I was a contemp-only gal until blogging and then in 2013, it felt like I was anti-contemporary for the most part (or at least, they didn't give me the same enthusiasm as fantasy). Now, they're my go-tos again, especially when I'm in a funk (I'm succumbing into temptation and rereading *gasp* Fangirl).

    Now. This book. I'm supposed to get my copy soon (thank you, YA Book Exchange) and I cannot wait! All those fantabulous emotions and characters emitting them and I LOVE OFF-HANDED HUMOR. It's one of the best things along with swooning. *sighs happily* I can't wait!

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  12. This is another one that is just waiting for me to read. I'm so glad you loved it and I hope I do too! :)

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  13. Oh my. I've heard about this book only once and I just added it to my to-read on GR because the blurb sounds great. And then I read your review and it's like WOAH, I HAVE TO GET THIS BOOK AND READ IT NOW.

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