Author: Heather Demetrios
Publisher: Henry Holt BYR
Publish Date: February 4th, 2014
“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.”
Something Real by Heather Demetrios gives readers fresh look inside the world of reality TV and the dangers that sharing your family with the world might inflict upon children. With it's flawed, but spunky heroine and cast of lovable and zany siblings, it is sure to drag readers in and not let go until the last page.
Something Real is, in large part, about how reality TV can sometimes exploit children. I've never been forced to be on a reality TV show, but I can still feel Bonnie's pain and frustration. She was born on TV, grew up on TV, and made one of the biggest mistakes of her life for the whole world to see. When the life she thought she'd escaped comes back to haunt her present, she's the one with the most to lose. Bonnie's parents might be doing the show because they want the money to be able to give their children the things they never had, but how much is too much? How far do you go when you know you're hurting someone you love? These are all questions that the Baker family seemed to ignore throughout Something Real and that made me want to reach through the pages and shake some sense into them.
Demetrios does a nice job adding dimension to such a large cast of characters. The book does focus more on the older Baker siblings and their parents, but the little ones are always around to add a little chaos to the atmosphere, which really spices up the drama. They aren't a huge part of the story and you tend to forget who's who—most of them never even get any lines—but that just adds to the chaos of the Baker home. But the main characters are all well developed, even if some of them made me roll my eyes a time or two.
I just don't understand what goes through Bonnie's parents' minds. I get some of their motivations throughout the book, but it's like they're purposely trying to be dense. Maybe having 13 kids has made them a little callous to the needs of just one, but you'd still think they'd try to listen to their children's feelings about being on a TV show. Or, you know, at least ask what those feelings are before dumping a camera crew in their living room. As much as I agree with the fact that having 13 kids leaves a lot of mouths to feed and toilet paper to buy, I don't agree with ignoring the well being of one—maybe even most—of those kids, just for some money. There are other ways to take care of your family, especially when you KNOW that one of your kids hates being on the show so much she was willing to go to extreme lengths just to escape it the first time around. (Sorry for the rant. Ugh. They just made me so mad.)
But, to be fair, Bonnie can be a bit of a whiner as well. Very woe is me and she never really gets over it. She seems to be very much like her mother in that way. Bonnie has a pretty good reason to complain (who wouldn't if you were suddenly thrown into a spotlight you didn't want?), but as her family and friends point out to her throughout the novel, she's choosing to let the bad outweigh the good of being in the spotlight. And if she really couldn't stand being in the limelight, than she could have done many things to fix the situation, but it was always "too much" for her to bother. She had anxiety issues, and, being someone with anxiety issues myself, I felt for her, but there comes a time when you have to do something about it besides complain to everyone around you how unfair life is.
While the romance was cute and set a nice contrast to the dysfunction in the Baker house, it was sugary sweet in a way that left me feeling kind of bleh about it. There's really not much not to like about it, it was actually a very nice, semi-healthy relationship (though the clingy-ness factor was upped exponentially near the end). Just, personally, it didn't set my heart fluttering. Actually, I found it a little boring because it was so perfect. And then there was Patrick's complete lack of empathy for anyone he thought was putting an emotional burden on Bonnie. Which might sound like a nice caring way to be, except, for me, when it comes to my family don't tell me they're not my problem, dude. Seriously. Your younger siblings are your problem and you don't get to forget about them just because your parents make you anxious. That really irritated me about him, but still, I'm sure readers will fall for nice guy Patrick and his grunge good looks.
Even though Something Real deals with issues like mental and emotional trauma and what should or should not be considered child abuse when reality TV is involved, it still felt like a light read. It's cute and fun and more than a little heart-warming at times, just like Baker's Dozen is meant to be! But, just like any good reality TV show, there's still drama galore.
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