Friday, June 28, 2013

Rachel Rambles About You Look Different in Real Life

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle
From Goodreads:
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.

Smart, fresh, and frequently funny, You Look Different in Real Life is a piercing novel about life in an age where the lines between what's personal and what's public aren't always clear.

When I first read the summary for You Look Different in Real Life, I was instantly intrigued. It seemed like such an interesting and original subject matter. I couldn't wait to read about these teenagers who'd grown up in front of the camera and get into how that lifestyle affected them. Unfortunately, this book left me rather disappointed. The premise of the book had the potential to be highly entertaining, but I found myself bored and unimpressed for the majority of it.

The biggest problem I had with You Look Different in Real Life was the way the characters were portrayed. The main focus of the book was the narrator, Justine, who felt incredibly flat and lifeless to me. I feel like there was very little character development for her throughout the book, and there was nothing special or interesting about her that made me care about her or her life. The other characters, the teenagers featured in the documentary films, received even less character development. As I was reading, I felt like the characters were all so boring and two-dimensional. They didn't seem to have any personality traits that came across clearly in the book. They were all just there. As they found themselves in difficult or dramatic situations, I couldn't bring myself to care about them at all. I felt like I was given no reason to be emotionally invested in them, so all the situations that were supposed to make me feel bad or sad for them had almost no effect on me.

Also, the relationships the characters had with each other didn't seem realistic to me. The drama and tension between the characters felt superficial, and I had a hard time believing it. It didn't feel like they genuinely liked or hated or didn't trust each other.

Another issue I had with this book was the plot, or rather, lack of a plot. The first half of the book is about Justine's memories of the other kids and the films, and the cameras following around each of the kids and shooting footage. Nothing important happened during this time period, other than establishing some of the back story of all the characters. The story didn't seem to really start until the five teenagers were forced to participate in a retreat in a cabin in the woods, where they were expected to communicate with each other and learn to get along with each other. As I was reading, I assumed that this was when the book would get interesting and the characters would work out their problems and I'd get to see some character and plot development.

But after spending a short period of time on this retreat, the plot quickly moves away from it. One of the characters takes off unexpectedly, and the other four follow her. The rest of the book was about the group driving around and...not doing much else. It was boring! Their little road trip seemed pointless, and it didn't seem like any progress was being made. The plot was dull and I found myself wondering when things were going to get interesting.

The book wasn't all bad, though. I still think the idea behind the documentary films is fascinating. In the book, five kids are the subject of different films about their everyday lives. Every five years, another film is made, when the kids are at different ages and stages of their lives. There's Five at Six, Five at Eleven, and the film being made in the book, Five at Sixteen. It's a really interesting concept, and the point is to see how the kids change, and how their relationships to each other change as they all grow up. I wish the characters had more life to them so that I could appreciate this part of the story.

Another thing I did like about the book was the ending. It was nice to see that everyone, specifically Justine, seemed to get their crap together by the end of the book. There was also a little bit of romance at the end, which I was not expecting, but I thought it made sense in the story and it was an example of some good old character development. I wish the romance had come into the story a bit earlier though, because I would have preferred to see the character development sooner rather than later.

You Look Different in Real Life was not the worst book I've ever read, but it wasn't the best, either. I found myself incredibly bored with this book, but I didn't hate it. The original idea behind the book held so much potential, but the lifeless characters and boring plot disappointed me. My overall opinion on this book: Meh.


  1. Have you heard of the films this book seems to be based on? Google the Up series (starting with Seven Up.). I haven't seen them but the premise fascinates me.

    1. Ooh, I just Googled them! I had no idea something like the films in the book even existed! How cool. :) I might have to check them out at some point...

  2. This book sounds like a bit of a train wreck. I was interested in it before, but I think I may just skip it now.