Tuesday, April 01, 2014

YA Novel Tackles the "Real" in Reality TV

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Bonnie Baker knows better than most how little real exists in reality television.  As a former star of the hit series Baker's Dozen (think Jon & Kate Plus Eight), she spent most of her childhood in front of a camera.  The crew filmed her every trial and tantrum, stealing private family moments to air for all the world to see.  Until Bonnie snapped.  Her breakdown caused an international scandal, shut down the show, and turned her personal tragedy into nothing more than a juicy piece of celebrity gossip.  

In the four years since the show went bust, Bonnie's done her best to move on.  She re-named herself, changed her look, and enrolled in public school.  None of Bonnie's friends or classmates know her true identity—and she intends to keep it that way.  Chloe Baker prefers a quiet life, filled with nothing more exotic than trig homework and game nights at home with the family.  

Unfortunately for Bonnie/Chloe, the normal life she's so carefully constructed for herself is about to explode.  To see the stunned 17-year-old's reaction to this shocking turn of events, you just have to tune in to Baker's Dozen: a Fresh Batch.  It's true, Chloe's worst nightmare is coming to pass.  A new spin-off of the original series has been created.  Once again, she's a t.v. star.  Once again, her every move will be tracked by camera crews and paparazzi vultures.  Once again, she has no choice in the matter.  

Except this time, maybe she does.  What will Chloe's rebellion cost her?  Everything.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  Probably.  Maybe.  The more she tries to stand up for herself, the less sure of herself she becomes.  Will Chloe cave under all the pressure and guilt being stacked on her shoulders and cooperate with the show's producers?  Or can she save herself and her siblings from the insanity that's already ruining their lives?  There's only one thing Chloe knows for sure:  whatever happens, Fresh Batch will end in a tear-jerking, drama-filled, Hollywood-worthy finale.  

Unlike a lot of people, I couldn't care less what happens on The Bachelor.  Or Big Brother.  Or Iron Chef.  Case in point:  I had to Google "popular reality shows" to even come up with those titles!  I am, however, fascinated by the psychology behind the phenom that is reality t.v.:  Why would anyone agree to have a camera record every step they take, broadcasting their private struggles to the world?  Why are viewers so obsessed with watching the petty dramas of someone else's life—especially when we all know none of it is real?  And what kind of damage does this do to the stars of such series, especially the children?  

These are the questions Heather Demetrios explores in her debut novel, Something Real.  Although the story involves plenty of the kind of drama you'd expect—dodging the paparazzi; dealing with unwelcome, often engineered surprises; having your newest zit broadcast on national television, etc.—at its heart, the novel is about family.  And finding your place in the world, even when asserting yourself means hurting other people.  Told in the funny, sarcastic voice of Bonnie/Chloe, the story still manages to be both thoughtful and hopeful.  I had my issues with Something Real, of course, but overall, it's a compelling, well-written tale that's every bit as riveting as any episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians (at least, so I'm told).  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:  


for strong language, depictions of underage drinking/partying, and sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Something Real from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  

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