Hello and Happy Monday!! I am happy to be participating in the blog tour for Something Real by Heather Demetrios! I have my review and a guest post!
- Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
- Publication date: 2/4/2014
- Source: ARC provided by the publisher for review
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.
I will start by saying that I am not a huge reality TV person, but I am a bit obsessed with Big Brother, so this book seemed like a really great book for me to read. I actually got the live feeds this past season so I could see everything going on and what they actually showed on air. Enough of that though. This book was great at showing the inside story to Bonnie's real life and what she goes through. It was heartbreaking at times, especially with how her mom is and the producer. I loved the family aspect on all sides, whether good or bad. I also was a big fan of the romance, which could have been done terribly wrong, but was really great. In general, this was a realistic take on living in the world of reality TV.
Bonnie, or Chloe as she would rather go by, is one of the first of the dozen kids that makes up the show. I really sympathized with her right from the start. She has been part of this reality show for practically her whole life with the exception of a few years after an unfortunate event. She is now a senior in high school, living a pretty normal life. Her past still haunts her every second. Worry over people recognizing her, but she is content. That is until she returns home from school to see her home has been turned into a set and the show is back on. Now she struggles with the lies that she has told her friends, and the secret life she hid from them. Also, the object of her affection has finally shown interest. She doesn't want to get anyone she cares for involved in the hell of her life. Nowhere she goes is without the eye of the show and everything she does is scrutinized, the truth stretched, and damaging to everyone around her. She is fragile, but still tough. I can't imagine what life would be like with cameras around 24/7 since the moment you were born. She wants out, but knows it's almost impossible. I like that she doesn't give up even though she has moments when she is about to. She struggles with what to do and how to do it. All she knows is that she needs to get off of the show before it destroys her completely. While others may think she is selfish, she actually is thinking of those around her more than herself a lot of the time.
Patrick was so sweet and absolutely amazing. He has liked Chloe/Bonnie for a long time, but only now when the show is about to start again does he let her know. She keeps it from him, just like everyone else for as long as she can. The thing is, he doesn't care. He wants to be with her no matter what. I loved that when she tried to push him away, he didn't just give in. Okay, so he does what she wants, but makes it clear that he wants her and doesn't care about the show, or the paparazzi, or any of it. He is there for her, he does sweet things for her, and he makes her feel normal. He was not the super hot guy that everyone else wants. He wasn't a key player for a sports team. He was just a normal guy who doesn't try to be someone different for anyone. It's so refreshing to have a love interest that isn't some unrealistic person. He was down to earth, honest, and real.
The family aspect of this both pissed me off, and made me happy. I loved Benton, Bonnie's brother. He was so awesome. He's like her best friend. He doesn't want to do the show any more than she does, but he just goes with it. He also supports her and will do whatever he can to help her be happy. The brother/sister bond they had was great. I hated Lexie at first, but came to like her the more I understood her. She comes across as a horrible, snobby, stuck up chick, but that is just the shell she wears. Underneath she is also broken. She knows what she wants out of life though. She is tougher than she first appears too. OMG Beth, the mom... I wanted to stab her in the eye with a fork, or throw her off a tall building, or just tell her she is the worst mom ever. She doesn't see what she is doing to her family. Well, she does I'm pretty sure, but she doesn't care or want to acknowledge it. This has been such a big part of her life and has made her a lot of money. She won't let them ruin it for her. Ugh!! I wanted to throw this book at times with how much hate I had toward that woman.
This was such an honest and great book. It shows how being watched all the time can change you. What the shows do to make ratings. How it can destroy your life. I know that a lot of people have mentioned the trademarks after the names, but I thought it added to the story. It's hard to forget that the kids don't have their own life. They are just that, a trademark. Something that belongs to someone else. It really sets the tone in my opinion. I did think that this book would be a bit more light hearted, but I loved that it was heartbreaking and filled with emotion. When a book gets me that riled up at the characters, it's doing something very right. Also, each chapter is an episode of the show which I thought was a fun touch. In between chapters we also get the occasional interview or other similar thing too. It all fell together really well and I loved it!
*An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any compensation.
One of the things that I don’t think gets touched on enough in discussions of YA is how writers can create more authentic, multi-faceted parental characters. We get so caught up in our teen protagonists’ lives that we forget that most teens don’t just see their parents (or parent) for a scene or two between all the action. Sometimes the parents are a huge part of the crux of a story. I think it’s really important for YA writers to spend some real time fleshing out their protagonists’ guardians. So often they’re not even in the picture: dead or conveniently absent, these parent figures stand on the sidelines while their teens battle the forces of evil or at least try to get through one more day of high school alive. Some of my most satisfying moments in writing my novels have come from spending a little extra time on the adults in my teens’ lives.
One of the biggest challenges I had working on SOMETHING REAL was creating Beth Baker-
Miller, my protagonist’s mom. She was the character I had to re-write more than any other because it took a while for me to figure her out and show her complexity. I wanted readers to see why a woman would want so many kids and put them on TV and how this woman went from someone who just really wanted to be a mom to someone who put fame before her kids’ needs. This is a pretty big challenge when your narrative is from a teen’s first-person POV, not to mention that there are thirteen children in the house, one step-dad, several tutors and nannies, television crew members…and a partridge in a pear tree.
It’s no secret that I modeled Beth after Kate Gosselin of Jon and Kate Plus Eight fame. That whole family was my inspiration for the book itself (though none of the kids were, just the kids as a group). I hadn’t seen the show before I started the book, but I knew of it and had seen the media storm surrounding the family as it played out on tabloid magazine covers. So I sat down and watched several episodes of the show, as well as flipped through one of the books Kate Gosselin wrote, just to get a feel for how she talked about her family. Then I got to writing.
My main goal was to explore Beth’s relationship with her daughter, Bonnie™ (my protagonist). I wanted to show some of the challenges they faced in terms of getting quality time with one another and managing expectations. I knew it would be difficult for a mom of thirteen to juggle all of her kids’ needs at once and I wanted it to be clear who and what was slipping through the cracks. I thought I had done a pretty decent job, but my editor wanted to see more. I think part of me was afraid of showing too much of Mom and boring my teen readers, but I was glad that my editor pushed me to go deeper because I think I was doing my younger readers a disservice by glossing over the more adult concerns of the parents. Coming from a broken home, I was always aware of adult problems: money, custody issues, and the challenges of trying to navigate single parenthood. Since roughly fifty percent of my teen readers are probably also experiencing exposure to these mature problems, it stood to reason that they might actually be interested in getting to see more from the adults in the books.
What really helped me in getting to Beth’s core was watching the movie Cinema Verite, which is about the Loud family, the first family to be on reality TV. I highly recommend it. It’s absolutely fascinating to see a family try to figure out what it means to live their lives on TV in a world where this has never happened before. Now, it seems like everyone gets their fifteen minutes of fame, but back in the day, being on reality TV was this whole new world. Nobody knew how manipulating producers could be or how the facts could be edited out. Pat Loud, the mom in that family, wrote an autobiography that was really illuminating. She was honest about how the fame affected her family and her intelligence made the book an absorbing read. So I took this reality TV mom with me when I went back into my own manuscript. The Beth Baker-Miller I wanted to portray finally materialized.
What I hope readers see is a real person who does bad things for the right reasons and good things for the wrong reasons. A woman who desperately longed for children and thought she had found the best way to make this dream come true. A woman who gets sidetracked by fame and fortune and forgets what really matters. A woman who’s proud and hurting, callous and wounded. In the book, Beth is a Reel Mom™ (a branded mother figure, one of many on the fictional reality TV network I created, MetaReel). But she’s also a real mom who, just like her daughter, needs to figure out who she is and what she stands for.