I’ve been looking forward to You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle since first hearing of it. I really liked Jennifer Castle’s debut, The Beginning of After, and I knew she was an author to watch. Although I didn’t absolutely unreservedly love this book, I did really enjoy the characters and how easy it was to sympathize with their situation.
Basically, five kids were picked to be reality stars. When they were in KINDERGARTEN. Dude, can you say “too-young-to-sign-on-the-dotted-line” five times fast? Anyway, the deal was that they’d be making a new documentary movie every five years from that point forward. So, now they’re sixteen and it’s showtime once again. Justine, who was the unexpected star of the first couple of movies, is now pretty meh about filming the movie. She feels like she hasn’t done anything worthwhile and she is pretty worried that she’ll just end up being a huge disappointment.
To make things worse, the five “stars” have mostly drifted apart. Justine, Keira, Rory, Felix and Nate have all changed, and those changes aren’t leaving most of them exactly chomping at the bit to be on camera…so at least Justine isn’t alone in that. From parental abandonments to betrayals and misunderstandings, these kids have some major issues to work out. Too bad they’ll be doing it with a massive audience. Awkward.
The whole reality movie aspect of You Look Different in Real Life is what really drew me in – and I’m sure that’ll be the case for a lot of people. I mean, dude. We are all about the reality TV in this country. Even though Project Runway and Duck Dynasty are about as far as I go these days…it is pretty much pick a channel, any channel. Chances are you’ll come across a camera following somebody around. (OMG, I just got the best idea ever. Project Runway/Duck Dynasty mash-up! I would die.)
So anyway, it was not hard at all to imagine intrusive producers and annoying cameras following around a bunch of teenagers. Jennifer Castle definitely had a smart hook for this book! Getting invested in the characters was a lot easier when you were rooting for them to succeed so they wouldn’t humiliate themselves on an international scale. It also, for me at least, made me think about how awful it would have been for me to have to dissect my life in front of America when I was a teenager. THE HORROR, YOU GUYS.
I really loved the themes that were explored throughout You Look Different in Real Life. The focus is mostly on Justine, since she is the narrator. She had issues with Rory to work out, there were some pretty ugly friend betrayal issues simmering between them, and hashing that out was NOT easy. I’m really glad – because Lord knows forgiveness isn’t one of the biggest virtues in the teenage arsenal. There was also jealousy (poor Felix wants to be a star!) and Keira went through a lot, learning things about the mom that had previously abandoned her.
And, of course, when you’re dealing with five hormonal teenagers, there is some love in the air! To be honest, I was mostly take it or leave it when it came to the romance. I felt it was one of the weaker parts of the book. Luckily though, the story was strong enough without it. All the other issues Jennifer Castle explored were better written and more original.
Of all the various parts that make up You Look Different in Real Life, the reality movie aspect was definitely what shined the most. I absolutely love how relevant it is in today’s society and how well it was portrayed and explored throughout the book. Well done, Jennifer Castle! With two strong books already under her belt, I’ll be looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next for sure.
To Sum it Up:
- Five teenagers starring in a reality documentary? Awesome plot ideas, FTW!
- The romance was a little weak, but all the other various plot points were explored a lot more successfully and the way everything comes together is pretty great.
- I am definitely a card carrying member of the Jennifer Castle fan club, y’all. She can rock some awesome characterization.