by Heather Demetrios
Original Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Length: 403 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt
Obtained Via: Bought
View at the Traffic light:
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.
As a private person, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have your entire life on display for the entire country to see. That’s the idea that Something Real takes and it absolutely runs with it. Bonnie/Chloe(who I’ll be calling Chloe here on out), is one of the Baker’s Dozen. One of thirteen kids, many adopted, most of Chloe’s life aired on a reality TV network. It’s left with here a whole handful of issues, and she’s just beginning to recover when she learns that her mother and her step-father have decided to sign on for Baker’s Dozen: Fresh Batch, and Chloe’s not sure how to cope.
It’s hard to read Something Real and not feel for Chloe. I’ve never really watched reality TV shows like the one Chloe’s family is on, and I definitely never will after reading Something Real. It’s particularly frustrating to watch Chloe and her two siblings who are closest in age to her because as teenagers, they’re totally old enough to know what’s going on–and to hate it–but they’re still minors with little choice in the matter.
Parents in YA books are discussed a lot, but I just have to throw it out there that I don’t know if I’ve ever hated parents in a YA book as much as I despised the parents in Something Real. They were so perfectly written, however. Something Real doesn’t spend a whole lot of time focusing on the parent-child interaction(well, at least not as much as the sibling interaction), but the glimpses of Chloe’s mom are really intriguing. Who would be so desperate to WANT to parade their children on national TV? Are they looking for fame? Money? That sort of mentality was explored quite a bit in Something Real, and while I sort of hated reading about it just from a personal standpoint, I can’t deny it was well done.
More than anything though, the best part of Something Real is the sibling interaction. There are so many siblings it’s hard to keep track of them all, but Chloe generally interacts the most with her brother Benton and sister Lexie. Benton and Chloe are best friends and basically help each other cope when they learn the show’s going back on the air, while Chloe’s relationship with Lexie is tense. I never particularly enjoy reading about tense sibling relationships, but I thought the way Chloe’s interactions with those two siblings contrasted nicely, and showed another side of how one of the children might choose to deal with this invasion of privacy.
Something Real deals with quite a few themes, but one of the most interesting was the idea of how observation can change you. Chloe’s life is often contrasted with the theories and ideas in her political science class. Her class discusses, of course, 1984, and the idea of observation is one that Chloe knows too well first hand. I won’t right paragraphs and paragraphs detailing my thoughts on this matter, but I thought it was an interesting comparison, and I could see Something Real being a great conversation starter in terms of talking about how we act when we know people are looking and what that does to us.
I’ll end my review by saying I absolutely adore these characters. Often, my favorite scenes were the ones that involved Chloe, Benton, Benton’s boyfriend, Matt, and Chloe’s boyfriend, Patrick. The sibling interactions were always great, but any time these four characters appear together I knew I would love the scene. They all felt so real and Matt and Patrick were both wonderfully supportive. There were scenes that made me mad in this book, yes, but there were also scenes that made me tear up happy tears. Something Real made me run the entire course of emotion, that’s for sure, and I completely recommend it.
One of the most unique contemporaries I’ve ever read, Something Real has become an early 2014 favorite. Virtually flawless, I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a great character-driven read with TONS of character growth and development. 5/5 cupcakes.