Title: You Look Different in Real Life
Author: Jennifer Castle (website ★ twitter)
Pub. Date: June 4, 2013
Source: e-ARC via edelweiss (Thank you, HarperTeen!)
Summary: For the rest of the world, the movies are entertainment. For Justine, they’re real life.
The premise was simple: five kids, just living their lives. There’d be a new movie about them every five years, starting in kindergarten. But no one could have predicted what the cameras would capture. And no one could have predicted that Justine would be the star.
Now sixteen, Justine doesn’t feel like a star anymore. In fact, when she hears the crew has gotten the green light to film Five at Sixteen, all she feels is dread. The kids who shared the same table in kindergarten have become teenagers who hardly know one another. And Justine, who was so funny and edgy in the first two movies, feels like a disappointment.
But these teens have a bond that goes deeper than what’s on film. They’ve all shared the painful details of their lives with countless viewers. They all know how it feels to have fans as well as friends. So when this latest movie gives them the chance to reunite, Justine and her costars are going to take it. Because sometimes, the only way to see yourself is through someone else’s eyes.
Genre: YA, Contemporary
This is not a soap opera, folks. This is my life.
And it is absolutely, positively as unamazing as you can get.
When they were six, a group of five children were filmed for the world. At eleven, those same children – now a little older – were placed in the spotlight once more. Now they’re sixteen, teenagers, each with a different group of friends and interests. They receive a call for another documentary and, after some initial hesitation, they accept.
In the two previous films, each child had a distinct role. For Justine, it was the edgy rebel. The girl who always had a witty comeback. That five-year old girl is decidedly not the same as the 16-year old and Justine worries that she might be a letdown. Without her offhand remarks and crazy antics, who is she? Why would anyone be interested in watching her?
The other four are dealing with issues of their own, some more public than others. The world got to witness Keira’s mother walk out on her. She’s now the queen bee at school and certainly isn’t interested in reopening old wounds. Rory still feels the sting of Justine’s betrayal; how could they possibly work together on another film?
You Look Different in Real Life has a cast of stereotypical characters – you’ve got a jock, an outcast, the most popular girl in the school – but it works. While reading, I saw the characters for who they were, not the mold they were cast from. After the second film ended, the children drifted apart. Once the cameras were turned off, they went their separate ways; Felix remained best friends with Justine, but the others practically became strangers. Being forced together at lunch and intentionally paired off for projects isn’t what they had in mind, but the producers know how to pull in the ratings.
Obviously I couldn’t quite put myself in their shoes – sadly, I’m not known worldwide – but I definitely felt the awkwardness and unease that comes with meeting up with a once-close friend. Each one of these teens has a secret or unvoiced fear and the more they need to work together, the more they talk. They know they aren’t the same people they were at five, but in realizing that, they’re able to focus on who they are now and they just might not be as different from each other as they thought.
The character growth was expertly done and the tiny hint of romance was a nice bonus. Although in the end I felt this was simply an okay – and enjoyable! – read, I can see this easily appealing far more to others.