Disclaimer: Heather and my sister have been friends for years–she’s even mentioned in the acknowledgements–and I have come to know Heather recently as well.
My New Year’s resolution was to read outside my favorite genres of sci-fi and fantasy. Although I thought that would mean nonfiction, literary YA definitely fits the bill. So when I sat down to read SOMETHIGN REAL, I didn’t really know what to expect. So I was incredibly happy to discover SOMETHING REAL to be smart, genuine, fun, and extremely well written.
SOMETHING REAL is the story of high school senior Chloe Baker. Chloe has spent the past four years trying to blend in, disappear, and cover up her secret past: Chloe was born Bonnie Baker–live on reality TV–and until it was cancelled thirteen years later, cameras filmed every moment of Bonnie’s life, as well as that of her twelve siblings, as part of the TV show, “Baker’s Dozen.” Just when she’s managed to get a handle on her life, make some friends, and maybe even find a boyfriend, “Baker’s Dozen” is back on the air, threatening to ruin everything.
At the heart of SOMETHING REAL are its characters. Heather is able to create a large–very large, in fact–cast without overwhelming readers or resorting to empty, cardboard cut outs. It’s impossible not to be pulled along with Chloe as she struggles to learn who she is and how to express it–to herself, her family, her friends, and the public. Her relationship with her brother Benton is very heartwarming, and reminded me of my relationship with my sister in many ways. Chloe’s friends Tess and Mer offer her a safe space and some comedic relief, especially after all the secrets spill out. And as for Chloe’s boyfriend Patrick–well, I think she has created a character many female readers will develop a crush on.
I’m of the opinion that great characters make a book. Great characters and a mediocre plot will still be a pretty good book. But a book with great characters and a great plot? Well, that’s when things start to really pop. And Heather has plotted her story excellently–it’s very impressive for a debut novel. Nothing is rushed, and the pacing doesn’t let you put the book down. I was also very pleased by how Heather seeded her stories with details that became important later on (hint: don’t skim over the newspaper clippings and blog posts inserted in the book–you’ll miss some great easter eggs).
SOMETHING REAL also smartly dissects the world of reality TV, detailing the many ways it is anything but. Scripted, staged, edited, and managed by a production company. Bonnie was more of a character than a person. And Chloe comes to think of her home as a set. Chloe’s mother is too busy living the celebrity lifestyle and playing to the camera to see what Chloe is going through.
I had actually started reading another book before SOMETHING REAL, but that other book went unopened as I raced through SOMETHING REAL. Fans of YA, reality TV, and very well written books will enjoy this. I can’t wait to read what Heather writes next.