Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review - The Real Real

Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus
HarperCollins Publishers
When XTV (a fictionalized MTV) comes to Jesse's high school to shoot their first-ever teenage reality show about living in the Hamptons (The Real Hamptons Beach), Jesse is uninterested, knowing the show will be -- of course -- a spotlight on the popular, uber-wealthy students. She's surprised when the producers want her to be one of the main cast, but with a hefty scholarship attached to the show, the Georgetown-bound senior can't pass it up. Unfortunately, being a part of the show means being filmed all day, every day. It also means being forced to hang out with the super-popular Nico and Melanie instead of her best friend. It doesn't take long for the show to overtake her life as the producers stage scenes and pull the puppet strings of their casts lives; it might make for riveting television, but living it sucks. Soon, it's hard for Jesse to tell what's real and what's not as weekends end up as planned scenes and a date with her crush ends up being completely staged by the show's producers. And if Jesse's "life" was hard to manage during shooting, it gets complicated in a whole new way when the show actually airs. Suddenly everyone has an opinion (most not-so-nice) about her and her parents think she has a secret life she hasn't told them about, all because of a few edited-beyond-recognition episodes.

Wallflower-turned-famous stories are always a bit hit and miss with me, but The Real Real was definitely a hit. The storyline plays off of the reality show scenes we've seen again and again -- the short conversation that, thanks to a fitting soundtrack, seems so important, or the rivaling groups that seem to be fighting over absolutely nothing -- while giving a "behind the scenes" story that's so much more complicated and interesting than the one on screen. Jesse is intelligent and mostly level-headed, but it's her humor and go-with-the-flow attitude that makes her so relatable. Sure, the show isn't exactly her idea and she does think about quitting early on, but despite this she doesn't spend her time whining about how unfair everything is, even as the show seems to be ruining all the good things in her life. Instead, she takes control of the few things she can control and views her fellow cast members as allies instead of enemies. Though some of the characters here are fairly stereotypical, they're interesting and entertaining stereotypes. This book earnestly touches on a few themes: friendship and personal responsibility among them, but it never lingers too long on these themes.

This book is funny as it simultaneously mocks and shows a real affection for reality television shows. I reached the end of the book hoping there would be a sequel; I think originally this was the start of a planned series but I can't find any information on the next book, which is a shame as the ending works so much better as the first in a series than it does as a stand-alone. Despite the lack-of-closure in the form of a second book, The Real Real is one of the best wallflower-turned-famous books I've read. Just like its protagonist, the novel is funny and smart, great for those of us who like to watch reality television and those who like to make fun of it.

1 comment:

  1. I don't see how there's anything to mock at all in reality t.v. O.o... yes I'm being sarcastic.

    hehehe Have a Happy St. Patty's!