The Real Real by Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus
Release Date: May 2009
Publisher: Harper Collins
Imagine that an MTV-like station wants to film a reality documentary in your high school. Would you prefer you be a star or just a face in the crowd? Jesse O'Rourke would love to fade into the background, but a $40,000 check for college tuition is hard to turn down. Now she finds herself living a life that is not her own; pretending to be rich and being best friends with girls she barely likes. The only bright spot is that her crush, Drew, has been chosen to be one of the cast members as well. This may finally be her chance to make him part of her life. However, the manipulations and scheming of the production team threaten to ruin that and much more. Will Jesse be able to regain control of her life or will it all go down in flames?
The Short of It: I have a confession, this book completely and utterly surprised me. I honestly didn’t think I would like it, but decided to give it a try for reader’s advisory sake. Don’t let the Gossip Girl-ish cover/description throw you off as it did me. This book is full of intelligent and realistic characters that are sure to win your heart.
Plot: I dare you to look at reality shows the same way after reading The Real Real. While I’ve never personally been in a reality show, the manipulation and “scripting” seems quite accurate. I love how Mclaughlin & Kraus show how an average, every day girl’s life can be turned upside down as she becomes a star in front of millions. How the life that the viewers see is nothing like the life she used to lead. How perfect dates could be cheeseburgers backstage while waiting to shoot the perfect-TV date. It makes you realize that the reality shows that most of us can get addicted to are nothing compared to the true reality we live everyday. No matter how many times you redo a scene it’ll never be as good as the real thing.
Characters: I simply adored Jesse. She really was your average, every day teen. Yes, she made mistakes. She let money get her into situations she never wanted to be in the first place. (But can you blame the girl? College money is hard to come by for most!) Yes, she even did some things she wouldn’t have never done without the help of alcohol and emotional distress. However, I feel like at the very core she never lost who she truly was. She dealt with the consequences to her actions the best she could, especially with millions now tracking your every move. I cheered as Jesse stood up for herself, but not sure I agree with the deal she struck. I only hope she learned her lesson from the first time around.
I also want to make a quick comment on the secondary characters. Mclaughlin & Kraus could have easily let the popular crowd be superficial, rich kids and let Jesse have all the spotlight. However, I’m very glad they didn’t. It was nice to have Jesse realize that these people who she thought had fairy-tale lives had problems of their own. From school & home pressure to parents who are hardly ever there/don’t care, the teens were painted in a way that anyone could relate to. There were even times where I felt amazed by their strength or pitied the situation they were in. Kudos to Mclaughlin & Kraus for going that extra step, making all the teens believable and relatable.
Romance: There is no easy romance for Jesse and Drew. Instead it is full of roadblocks, bumps, and lots of wrong turns. It would be easy to say the problems they faced were all due to the production team, but really a lot of it was due to them being human (especially teenage ones). However, when they work they really do work well. I found myself cheering them on and booing when something screwed up their blooming relationship. I would love to see where their relationship would lead. (sequel maybe?)
Writing: I can’t say that I had any real complaints here. And if I did, they were small enough that I’ve already forgotten them. Mclaughlin & Kraus do a good job at keeping the reader entertained and wanting to read more. I really liked how they decided the book into four sections: The Real, The Reels, The Real Reel, & The Real Real. It was a nice way to divide up Jesse’s life by what was happening.
Librarian-Mode: This is an easy one to throw into the chick-lit recommendations. Intelligent, sassy characters with lots of drama will reel in a variety of readers. The Real Real will easily appeal to those who like authors such as Dessen and Elkeles, but also has enough juiciness to pull in those who love Gossip Girls and The Clique as well.
And guess what, I was given an extra copy to give to one of you!
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