In Book Reviews, coming of age


Author: Jennifer Castle
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Genre: Young Adult
Format: ARC (Received copy for an honest review)
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Recommended Reading: AGE+ 15


Contains No Spoilers

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OVERALL THOUGHTS: Based on a reality show, this book is interesting in concept, but misses the mark in execution. I found the writing to be well formulated and thought out, but it just didn’t give me that feeling that resonates long after the final pages. The hodgepodge cast of characters was interesting, but just not enough and the storyline was less than believable. I am hesitant to say skip it because there were several things I found endearing, unfortunately they just weren’t enough.

[note color=”#edddee”]SYNOPSIS: 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.


THE LOWDOWN: I feel rather blasé about this book. I liked the peripheral characters, but found the lead protagonist uninteresting and unlikable. The book takes place in a small town where a documentary team had filmed a group of kids in different stages in their life. The movie made these kids celebrities, but tore apart their personal lives and we spend the book reading about them trying to repair their past wrongs. I liked that this story uses very real ideas, the pain that comes from displaying your life for all to see, but I found the execution unbelievable. Perhaps it was because I didn’t like the lead character, but I think it was due more in part to the slow and tedious narrative.

For most of the book, we follow around an unhappy and self-proclaimed outcast. Although, she really isn’t. She broods over mistakes she made, the boy she thinks she hates, her friends need for fame and her parents ridiculous behavior. But what I found unbearable was her spineless decision-making. One minute she wanted to do the movie, the next, she wanted nothing to do with it. Yet, all the while she would pander for the camera. It made absolutely no sense. She flip-flopped so much, I didn’t trust any choice she made. In the end, I found her to be naïve, stupid and not worth the time spent trying to figure out which way she was going to turn.

The story was also trite. Nothing… and I repeat, nothing was a shock. I saw all the “aha” moments coming miles ahead and that left me pretty unsatisfied. Frankly, the whole concept was a little ridiculous. Am I supposed to believe that following a group of suburban kids with no real social inequities through life is worthy of a movie? Not one I would watch. And again, this left me scratching my head pondering the author’s choices. There was one redeeming factor… the love interest. Although I could see it barreling toward me 5 chapters back, I still liked the guy and wanted to see how it played out. I also liked her friends and their struggles. I found them interesting, well-rounded and far more dynamic than the lead.

FINAL THOUGHTS: You Look Different in Real Life is an okay book that might be good enough to read after you have ripped through all those fantastic summer reads.

Sara O'Connor
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