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Magan: You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

Book Cover For You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle {website | twitter}
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 368
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: documentary, realistic fiction, strained friendships, teenage reality movie
Format read: ARC received via Edelweiss from the publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary: At 16, Justine, Rory, Felix, Kiera, and Nate are soon to begin filming another documentary. Beginning when they were 6, a film crew followed them around for a few months to document their lives. They’ve followed up every five years and plan to continue doing so until they’re 21. Oh, how things have changed since they were 11. Justine thinks she’s already lived through the best part of her life and she’s going to let down viewers.

Have you ever misjudged a book? Maybe just thought it would tell a different story than what you read? When I began reading You Look Different in Real Life, I expected something a bit more light-hearted that I would breeze through. I stopped reading book summaries a few months ago because I felt like they were spoiling so much for me, but in this particular case, I think maybe the cover eludes to a different story. (Thoughts?) But I digress… — WOW! — am I so glad I was so misguided. What I read — what Jennifer Castle wrote — is absolutely phenomenal.

In a nutshell, You Look Different in Real Life is deep, engaging, so meaty and full of story — there’s past and present stories that makes everything flow effortlessly. I laughed, I cried. I couldn’t put it down.

Justine, the main character, is uncertain of who she is. When she was six years old, she partook in a documentary film with four other six-year-olds (Rory, Nate, Felix, and Kiera) that followed them throughout the course of a few months. When they turned eleven, the film crew popped back into their lives to begin filming again. At sixteen, Justine is expecting a phone call. She knows they’ll return because the intent was to follow them until they turned 21. She’s hesitant of their return because at 6 and 11, she was somewhat the standout kid — she was quirky and full of personality. She won the hearts of thousands. At 16, she feels she’s digressed because she peaked at 11. Justine now feels like she’s lost herself — she has no hobbies and no particular talents. Everyone who loved her in the previous films will be disappointed with who she’s become.

To make matters more interesting, Justine, Rory, Nate, Kiera, and Felix aren’t really a close group of friends. They’ve all, in multiple ways, hurt one another. Rory is Justine’s ex-best friend; she’s odd and blatantly honest. Justine has things she wants to say to Rory, genuinely, but is afraid that they will come off as being timed for the film. Nate has made the biggest turnaround of the group; he used to be a misfit who got teased endlessly, but now he’s a popular jock. Justine resents him because she thinks (but doesn’t know the details of the exact encounter) he did something to Felix, her present day best friend. Felix wants to be a star; he’s always felt overshadowed and wants to have a bigger role in the next film. And lastly, there’s Kiera. She and Justine orbit in different worlds and don’t particularly get along. Kiera is friends with Nate and she’s pretty/popular.

What the film crew expects to find is the complete opposite of the reality they stumble upon. So much so that they have to intervene and begin to manipulate situations to get these very hesitant-to-interact teenagers together. What really makes the story feel like a fresh breath of air are the many, many details put into aspects of who these kids are/were. Everything feels completely believable and realistic. We aren’t always given all of the details upfront, but I trusted Castle would carefully lead us to the end of the rainbow where all the answers awaited. There’s not a moment I felt like she, Castle, was providing unsubstantial information; each sentence was flooded with supportive details and full of character-building. Every progression in the story felt natural and made so much sense.

But maybe my most favorite aspect was how well-rounded everything felt. Castle set the scene and created a whole picture throughout the book by including a barrage of family and friendship moments. With all the transitions, growth, uncertainty. I find it impressive that a story based on the “reality” of five teenagers being filmed and documented could ironically feel so flawless and full of life; maybe because reality TV has conditioned me to believe only 5% of what’s being aired, I assumed Castle’s story would take the same over-the-top approach since it tackled a familiar situation. But I just couldn’t have been more wrong.

You Look Different in Real Life turned out to be one of the happiest surprises of 2013 for me!

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May 31, 2013 - 12:28 pm

Bookworm1858 - I think I would have preferred the more light hearted story hinted at by the synopsis. I was looking for more of a beach read. Still I thought the way things came together in the city was very absorbing-it just took too long to reach that point.

May 30, 2013 - 3:13 pm

Andrea @Cozy Up With A Good Read - Wow, I would not have gotten this story from looking at the cover. The cover definitely has a different feel to it, I haven’t heard of this one but it sounds like such a unique concept and I’m glad to hear that the author was able to pull it off. This one is definitely going on my list! Thanks for the review!!

May 29, 2013 - 2:23 pm

Alexa Y. - Clearly, I MUST read this book. I was already intrigued by the concept, but now I’m extra excited after seeing your review. I love it when an author is able to craft real, believable characters — and put them in believable situations! I certainly will have this book on my radar now.

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