Format: Hardcover, 403 pages
Publication date: February 4, 2014
BonnieTM Baker is a household name in America, thanks to a reality TV show that she, her parents, and her twelve siblings have been on called “Baker’s Dozen.” But the hit show went off the air four years ago, much to Bonnie’s relief. She and her family now live in a different town and she goes by the name Chloe. She’s got great friends, a possible love interest, and a town full of people who know nothing about her. But now MetaReel, the production company that made “Baker’s Dozen,” is back, and Chloe is going to have to be Bonnie again…and face up to her parents’ divorce and her own breakdown that caused the show to go off the air.
I was really excited for the release of this book. I expected it to be warm-hearted and cute, something I could race through. Instead, I got one of the most emotional reads I’ve had all year. It’s FAR MORE than it appears to be.
First of all, let’s talk about the MC, Chloe. She’s sweet. She’s smart. She’s funny. And she has major anxiety and panic attacks at the thought of any camera. At the beginning of the book, Chloe is about to get her yearbook picture taken, and it’s traumatizing. And as a reader, you realize immediately that this book is not fluff. Chloe is someone you really want to cheer on – you want her to take action, and you want her to get what she wants because frankly, her situation really, really sucks.
Benton, Chloe’s brother, is her sounding board and keeps her from jumping off the ledge. He hates MetaReel and Baker’s Dozen as much as Chloe does, but he’s more grounded about it. I loved the relationship between the two of them and how much they stick together and take care of one another.
Benton is also instrumental to Chloe getting together with Patrick Sheldon, a guy she’s been crushing on for ages. Honestly, guys, this dude is THE BEST. He loves Chloe for who she is. He pushes her to be the best she can be. And he sticks with her even when she tries to push him away. PLUS, he’s quirky and smarty, and says and texts adorable and witty things and…gah. The romance between Chloe and Patrick is SO swoony and so romantic. It’s seriously Anna and the French Kiss levels of adorbs, guys.
I want to fangirl over this book (I kinda just did), but it deserves more than that. Something Real made me think about our society and about how, just by watching and observing, we might be hurting and exploiting people who don’t have a choice in the matter. It sounds obvious that a book with a girl on a reality TV show would be dealing with themes and issues of privacy, celebrity, and the voyeuristic nature of the entertainment industry, but the way that Demetrios explored those issues was with compassion for her characters and a really balanced look at how hard it is to care about your family but want to be independent.
At the same time, Something Real is shocking in its a portrayal of the “Jon and Kate + 8” kind of entertainment that makes headlines and money. And it’s an honest portrayal of how good people can really be changed by what society wants from them. Bonnie’s mother Beth, and her stepfather Kirk don’t really seem like terrible people – Beth’s intentions with the 13 kids were always honourable, and in order to feed 13 kids, you do need money – but she’s been so warped by the idea of fame and of keeping up appearances that by the end of the book, you’re not sure what she wants out of this other than the money.
I read Something Real in fits and starts – totally not the right way to read a book – but it’s the kind of book where you can’t just read one sentence or a couple of pages. I would put it down for a day, and then find that I needed to wait for a point when I had a good chunk of time in order to read again because it pulls you in so completely that you really can’t put it down.
Guys, this is already one of my favourite reads of this year, and I suspect it will be one of my favourite reads of 2014. It’s that affecting. I beg of you, if you like romance or contemporaries of any kind, get thee to a bookstore and pick this one up.
Big Brother Is Watching You: Ok, so it did feel a bit obvious that Chloe and her friends were reading Orwell’s 1984 at just the time when Baker’s Dozen was coming back on…but you were never hit over the head with it. There would just be the occasional reference to Big Brother and you’d remember again, and you’d be like, PERFECT.
|Photo: Stuart Miles|
“Source” Material: I loved the fact that we got some of the backstory and current buzz on Chloe and her family through transcripts of old Baker’s Dozen episodes, articles in the media, etc – between the chapters. It just added a little something extra and was a constant reminder of the outside world and how Chloe and Benton are affected by it.
Honestly Beautiful Writing: I’m completely floored by the perfection of Heather Demetrios’ writing and just the care and honesty she has for her characters. I seriously wanted to dogear SO MANY pages, but it was a library book, so I just used sticky notes instead. Here, have a quote or three (most taken from the Fierce Reads website – thank you for doing this!):
The Final Word:
I’m calling it now: this is the sleeper hit of 2014. It’s on the same level as Anna and the French Kiss in just the sheer number of FEELS that I got, especially with the romance. My heart completely ached for Chloe/Bonnie and Benton, and the book hit me really hard with its themes and its honesty. You want to read this one, guys. It was a library read for me, but it’s definitely one I’ll be purchasing to re-read over and over again.