Author: Heather Demetrios
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Pages: 403 (print ARC edition)
Published: February 4 2014
Source: ARC from MacMillan
There’s nothing real about reality TV.
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 and the scandal surrounding it, 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 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.
After a six hour reading marathon, with breaks only for feeding the dogs and eating, I was finally able to put down the whirl of emotion and entertainment that is Heather Demetrios's Something Real. A YA contemporary that boasts possibly my favorite-ever gay ship and favorite sibling relationship, this charming but impassioned novel demands attention and will not be forgotten. What could have been a sensationalized, fictionalized and thinly-veiled retelling in the vein of real-life tv family
Though a lot of YA contemporary is about main characters gaining their independence, learning to trust themselves, and just plain growing up from adolescence to adulthood, none of those prior characters have had the life that Bonnie Baker did with her crazy, mixed family. Though the basic plot of her life shown in the novel is similar to others, the circumstances that force Bonnie to become Chloe are truly affecting and different. Though she is tied for my favorite character, Bonnie/Chloe is the crux of the novel. Her voice and narration are effective and realistic; her circumstances are out of this world but Chloe has a warmth and humor to her that quickly endeared her to me.
For the duration of most of her seventeen years, Bonnie was seen and as a commodity, not a child. She was packaged, coached, and sold to masses, with no regard for her own wants, life, secrets, or pain. When her only job should have been being a kid, her parents used her for fame and perks "to be financially secure." They ply their responsibility as parents on the backs of their own children and when one of them breaks from the pressure, it's hard not to see all three of the parental figures in the novel as heartless. Their depiction is truly saddening and often infuriating, but it is also believable. Bonnie's story feels familiar and authentic because it is, in this modern-day, paparazzi-crazy pop culture we all partake in.
With Chloe, Benton, Matt, Tessa, Patrick, Lexie and more, Demetrios has created a group of people that immediately feel like old friends and make reading Something Real even more enjoyable. They are all so rounded and individual, I feel like I really know these non-existent people. I can't tell you how refreshing and real a lot of the relationships are in this novel. Not only are the romantic ones like Benton and Matt or Chloe and her love interest developed slowly, but there are sibling relationships that evolve and mature, and then there friendships that feature girls who actually love and care about one another. It's astonishing and I totally loved that Bonnie wasn't a character defined by having boyfriend. Her strongest relationship is with her brother and their love for one another is palpable.
Something Real is a book that wears many hats over the course of its four hundred pages -- it's genuinely funny, often quite sweet, frequently able to trounce every feel you possess in your body -- but through it all, it's a just great read. Even when the author is destroying your heart, she writes so well you can't help but admire her ruthlessness and plotting. Through Chloe's various exploits, Demetrios never loses sight of the plot or the emotional center at the heart of the story. The pace never lags, the story doesn't falter and it ends up being a brilliant, emotional story.