Title: You Look Different in Real Life
Author: Jennifer Castle
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Source: ARC from the publisher
THOUGHTS: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.
After finishing You Look Different in Real Life, I remember just sitting in my bed (never mind that I had work in a few hours), marveling at how truly enthralling of a read this book was. I don't think I've ever loved a stand-alone so completely! Before this book, I was in a bit of a reading slump (and I remember swearing off anything contemporary for at least a few weeks), and wow - if you're looking for a book to make you rediscover your love for reading, this is it. It took me no time at all to finish reading this book, despite of the fact that I spent the previous weeks struggling to finish any book, and what I read, I loved. Needless to say, I was ultimately satisfied with what I read and what this book had to offer.
The idea behind this You Look Different in Real Life is sheer genius, given the fact that so many shows in our TVs today revolve around reality shows one way or another and a peek into how these shows are shot is sure to pique the interest of so many people. (Come one, it piqued mine, didn't it?) Moreover, the main backdrop of the story - three documentaries in every five years focusing on a group of five - is wholly fascinating and gripping. I don't think I've ever read a book in any age group or genre with a similar plot, and the blurb alone had me transfixed. I've been waiting for this book for quite some time now and I can say with no qualms whatsoever that it didn't disappoint me in any way.
I was particularly impressed with Castle's strong writing - the first chapter in and I already had a grasp on Justine, our narrator, as a character. The words on this novel's pages perfectly reflected all of Justine's misgivings about herself and all those that happened to her on the silver screen, as well as her qualms about shooting a third film now that everyone is sixteen... and not exactly the best of friends. I also found it incredible that here we have a novel of average length spanning the lives five main characters, and despite of the fact that the novel was told mainly from only Justine's POV, Castle was able to showcase growth from all characters through Justine's eyes.
I feel like the novel took place at an important point in the lives of our five main characters, Justine, Nate, Felix, Keira, and Rory. Because of the documentaries, they're unsure of who they are, most especially after they have shared some of the most important moments of their lives to millions of viewers. The most poignant moments of their lives, including the most painful ones, are now considered entertainment by the majority. Also, at this very delicate time in their lives - they're in their teens, searching for their identities, and yet they have to film a new documentary about who they are today. Add in the fact that not everyone is exactly friends with each other and you have a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, I found it incredibly refreshing to read a book that delves into so many blurred lines, but most especially the blurred line between reality and entertainment.
Moreover, this point of their lives depicts perfectly that nothing in life is permanent - nothing is forever - and Castle managed to get this point across to her readers. Appearances change. Fame is fleeting. You may be popular today, and yet the bottom of the social barrel tomorrow. Most importantly, even those relationships and friendships that you assumed to be for forever... some of them aren't. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't fight for those important to you, though. At the same time, Castle was also able to aptly elaborate on the notion that it's impossible for someone to run from his or her past, and that it's better to face whatever it is one's hiding from head on.
Most contemporaries today focus on romance, but this didn't. Instead, it focused on something more vital - identity. I don't think this will be a book that I'll be forgetting anytime soon.
Rating: 5 Stars