Saturday, August 9, 2014

Review: Something Real by Heather Demetrios


Title: Something Real 

Author: Heather Demetrios

Rating: 4 Stars

As someone who turns on the television maybe five times a year--for the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, and ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas--I couldn't adequately understand the hype over Something Real. I've never watched a reality TV show--not unless you count Food Network's "Chopped"--and was ignorant of the existence of "Honey Boo Boo" and "Dance Moms" until very recently. I may be young, but I really do live under a bookshelf. Needless to say, Something Real flew over my head, though not under my radar, until I read and loved Demetrios's sophomore novel, Exquisite Captive.

I'll admit it--the hype is right. For once. Something Real is a surprisingly poignant, emotional, and realistic debut. From the beginning itself, it's impossible to feel distant from the story at hand as Chloe's life is a tragic joke. Beth and Andrew Baker, once poor high school sweethearts with a dream of parenting a Baker's Dozen--or thirteen children--had their lives changed when MetaReel, a reality TV channel, decided to make their hopes a reality. For the first thirteen years of her childhood, Chloe's life has been documented on television--from her birth to her first steps to her medical overdose which put the show on hiatus for four years. Now seventeen, Chloe is finally living a normal life--friends, a potential boyfriend, and actual high school. But when she realizes her mother has signed up the family for another season of "Baker's Dozen", forcing Chloe back to her television persona of Bonnie and a life on camera, Chloe simply cannot deal. 

What I find shockingly depressing about "Baker's Dozen" is the viewer reaction to the show. Beth Baker is a role model of The Perfect Mother. Not only does she seamlessly run a household with thirteen children, but she has survived the infidelity of her husband and lived to find love again, marrying Kirk. Although Beth knows Chloe and her older brother, Benny, aren't eager to be back on "Baker's Dozen," she is forced to seek employment with MetaReel due to financial reasons. Chloe's reaction to "Baker's Dozen" immediately forces her into our hearts and her volatile relationship with the camera, her mother, and even her older sister Lex who loves being on television, are all so beautifully written. Demtrios creates nuanced familial relationships with so much depth, whether it be Chloe and Benny's easy sibling friendship or even Chloe and Lex's difficult sibling rivalry, both these sibling relationships of different natures are impossible to label or explain because they are multi-layered. Admittedly, I did find it difficult to condone many of Beth's actions, particularly towards the end of the novel, but I suppose a mother with thirteen children truly may react in the manner she does--I'll never know. 

Something Real is all-the-more endearing not for its reality television plot, but rather for Chloe's struggles to lead a normal life despite it all. Whether it be her tight friendship with her high school friends--who are seriously amazing friends--or her blooming romance with Patrick, the cute guy who sits behind her in government class, Chloe's internal battle to remain true to herself in the face of media dramatics is admirable. Chloe and Patrick's romance is a cornerstone of support throughout the difficult experiences Chloe undergoes. Of course, I found it far too perfect, but in Demetrios's defense it certainly made sense to write an easy, uncomplicated romance when so many other plot threads were complex. (Plus, if you want complicated romance from Demetrios just pick up Exquisite Captive--the gray matter is there in spades!) 

One of my favorite aspects of the tale, though, were the snippets from magazines, newspapers, or simply scripts from older "Baker's Dozen" episodes that are littered at the close of every chapter in Something Real. Demetrios brings her story alive by giving it a wider audience--paparazzi, scientists who study the psychological ramifications of reality television, etc.--and I loved this tactical decision. For me, it brought the effects of this story home in a truly impactful manner. Something Real isn't an altogether perfect debut novel, but then again, whose debut is perfect? Demetrios has written a thought-provoking piece, one ideal for the young adult genre as it forces readers to reflect on their exposure to media and the manner in which it shapes their lives. Moreover, this novel--lightly--touches upon difficult futuristic decisions, hinting at New Adult themes, which I further appreciated. I, for one, would love a New Adult follow-up novel, perhaps from the perspective of a different character. We won't be getting one, I don't think, but a girl can certainly dream, yes? 

17 comments:

  1. I'm the kind of person who loves food so much, I watch reality shows about them. I really suck at the kitchen and seeing talented chefs create amazing, complex dishes under a time limit greatly interests me.

    Anyway, I haven't read anything from Heather Demetrios yet and I haven't even heard about this book until now. I'm really glad you loved this one, Keertana. It sounded like this book has a lot of heart. It's also good to know that the familial relationships are realistic and had so much depth. I feel Chloe is an MC I would really love. Fantastic review, Keertana!

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  2. I absolutely agree Keertana! :) This was absolutely wonderful, and I'm glad you liked it too. I think the best thing about it was that Chloe was such an easy protagonist to relate to, and you can really sympathize with her. And I too would love a new-adult sequel! This one really makes you think in the best possible way. WONDERFUL review, and thanks for sharing! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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  3. Yay for books living up to their hype! Believe it or not I must have been in a closet the past bit because I don't remember seeing this one but you have definitely spiked my interest!

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  4. I don't mind food reality tv shows or shows like Deadliest Catch. I don't watch them on a regular basis, just when I'm in the kitchen cooking because my husband sometimes has them on. I HATE reality TV like Teen Moms or anything to do with a Kardashian. Give me a break! Kate Plus Eight and another show that reminds me of this book's Baker's Dozen (can't remember name) seem pretty horrible to me. Putting your family up on one of these shows almost guarantees that they'll have issues and is the money worth that? It's like selling your family. I just don't get it at all. This story does sound pretty interesting and I wouldn't mind reading it sometime. Wonderful review, Keertana! :)

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  5. Wow, you live much more under a rock than even I do! Although flicking on TV for the tennis is a definite must at least! haha.

    This book actually sounds really good, and you have always managed to highlight books I have never heard of before. I will almost certainly be adding it to my wishlist in hopes of getting ahold of it sometime soon!

    Although personally, I could never imagine having 13 kids, never mind placing them on a reality TV show. Definitely sounds interesting.

    Liv - previously @NerdyBookReviews

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  6. "I may be young, but I really do live under a bookshelf." Truer words haven't been spoken! I mean I really don't get all this hype with reality TV. I was never interested in that so yeah I totally understand. But I'm really glad that the hype surrounding this one was for the right reasons as it seems like a great read. Great review, Keertana :)

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  7. I hope you get that follow.up, as you say we can always dream

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  8. This one sounds really interesting and intense. I confess that the topic made me curious because we don't have a lot of books about that. Thanks for the great review!

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  9. I've read only positive reviews for this book all around the blogosphere and that intrigues me. Keertana, Chopped is my favorite show.(: As a person, who hasn't watched much of reality shows, I think I need to read this one. Beth, wife and a mother of thirteen children? seriously?? I'm bumping it on my TBR. Gorgeous review, Keertana!!! (:

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  10. This one actually did fly under my radar until I saw many of my friends enjoying this. I ended up adding it to my TBR but to be honest, I don't think I am ever going to get around to reading it. I don't watch reality TV. At all. And the snippets I have watched have caused me to hate it with a passion. It's why I think this book may not be for me because it would make this book a whole lot harder to read and a lot more emotional too! I am really glad though that you enjoyed this one, Keertana!! :)

    Lovely review as ALWAYS, hon!! :)

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  11. I have heard nothing but good things about this book. I NEED it!!! :)

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  12. At first, I thought this one wasn't for me. I am not a fan of reality tv, and I avoid it at all costs. In fact, I don't watch much tv at all like you. But with every review I read for this one, my interest continues to grow. This definitely sounds like an intriguing read, and an emotional one too. I'm loving how it explores her attempt to find normalcy in her life. I'll have to check this one out! Lovely review!

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  13. I just won an ARC of Something Real, so I'm very excited to get to it soon! I don't watch a lot of reality TV, but I'm not gonna lie, if my sisters put a reality show on, just to pass the time while we're eating or hanging out, I can get sucked in pretty quickly. I don't keep up with any of them religiously, but like I said, if I happen to catch an episode of something, just to pass the time, it can be quite entertaining. Since Something Real has been praised by you and Danielle of Love at First Page, I'm confident I'll end up liking this too, if not loving it. I've never read anything similar to this before, so I'm sure I'm in for a treat. I like that this book isn't superficial, and that Demetrios dives into the story's issues in an honest and affecting way. I can't wait to discuss this one with you, Keertana! Lovely review, dear. :)

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review

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  14. A NA follow up about these characters would be fantastic! I'd love to see what they do next after that ending.
    And yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Keertana! I was very impressed with it myself - and surprised; I guess I didn't think the premise made it sound like something I'd really enjoy, but it works. The power of a good author telling the right story.
    And glad to hear you enjoyed Exquisite Captive! I am definitely excited to read that, as it sounds like more my preferred type of book.

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  15. Ok, I definitely need to read this now! I've read so many fab reviews for this and yours just seals the deal. I have a copy of Exquisite Captive but I think I'll start this one first. I'm also not a reality TV person at all so to hear this worked so well for you is a tremendous relief! Fantastic review Keertana!

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  16. I just read this book and I loved it! I definitely want a sequel, maybe from Lexie's point of view? I am curious to find out what happens to her. I just started blogging yesterday and I posted a review of Something Real on my blog.

    http://justbeingmytrueself.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/something-real/

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  17. It thrills me that you thought this was worth the hype! YES! I'm always worried that a book won't live up to it for you. I love that Patrick is a little too perfect. But I do plan to read Exquisite Captive…when I work up enough courage. Great comment on the media sprinkled throughout. I didn't think to analyze it, but it definitely adds so much to the tale. Great review!

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