For Real by Alison Cherry ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte / Random House
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: revenge, reality TV, sister relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.
Summary: Two sisters embark on a reality show adventure but with different objectives: one wants revenge on an ex-best friend and the other is hoping for more quality time with her sister.
FYI: You don’t have to be a reality show guru to enjoy FOR REAL. In fact, if you are like me and maybe watch more Dancing with the Stars reality entertainment over the latest Survivor-type show, you will be impressed by the little details the author has folded into this story. From the auditions to deep in the action of Around the World, I felt like I was behind-the-scenes in the thick of things.
The core of FOR REAL was sisterhood, and that was so refreshing to experience because a lot of my reading doesn’t concentrate on the complicated relationship between sisters. I would know. I’m an older one. So even though I am more similar to Miranda and not Claire, our narrator, I related so much to the push and pull between them. Even though two people are related, when they are in two difference places in life, it’s so difficult to find common ground. Hearing Claire talk about playing second fiddle to Miranda made me think a lot about my sister and if she had ever felt the same way. Despite the disconnect, Cherry nailed the best thing about sisters: no matter where you are or what you are doing, the loyalty is unbreakable.
So Claire and Miranda team up to audition for a reality show that will take them around the world, participating in various challenges as a way to get back at Miranda’s cheating ex who is also on the show. They are so excited to land a last minute spot, but are also thrown for loop after loop once they sign their contract. There’s time spent with Will Devine, an adorable guy who seems to have his eye on Claire, and the changing landscape on the show that is focused on causing more drama and not really about strengthening new and old relationships. Is anyone taking part in this for real or are they all faking it?
It’s great that Claire was forced to make some tough decisions, as she struggled with her love for her sister and also her desire to win. (Let’s not forget her affection for Will.) Even as a reality show aficiando, Claire doesn’t have all the answers and I really enjoyed her journey. Cherry’s story was full of heart and I loved how she gave readers the opportunity to think about how real these reality shows are. Still, I would have welcomed more chapters to flesh out the end of the novel, and maybe a few more in between to lend some clarity to the show’s timeline. Overall, this was a fun introduction to Cherry’s writing and I was impressed by her decision to not always make the typical storytelling choices.
Big thanks to Random House for the opportunity to chat with Alison about FOR REAL!
First of all, I loved that FOR REAL focused on the relationship between two sisters. As an older sister, it was a little hard for me to read about how Claire wanted her sister to respect her and want to spend time with her. (I became very self-reflective, seriously.) What was the hardest part about getting this dynamic right? Did you throw in your own experience at all?
It was definitely a challenging dynamic to write, especially since I’m the older sister in real life, too! My younger sister and I have always been close; we’re far enough apart in age and have diverse enough interests that we’ve never really experienced any sibling rivalry, and she says I never underestimated or babied her the way Miranda does to Claire. (I was extremely happy to hear that, as you might imagine.) But many of my best friends in high school were older than I was, and I remember exactly what it felt like when they went off to college and moved on to bigger, better things while I was still stuck at home. It’s extremely painful to watch your importance in other people’s lives wane, especially when your feelings for them haven’t changed at all.
I’m more of a Dancing with the Stars fan than an adventure reality show fan but I was so impressed by all the behind-the-scenes details you included that I never would have thought of. Was it tough to narrow down the destinations of the show that Claire and Miranda take part in?
The behind-the-scenes details were surprisingly hard to find! It turns out people have to sign all kinds of non-disclosure agreements when they go on reality shows, so there are barely any tell-alls or even blog posts about the experience. I did manage to interview one former contestant and one field producer, both of whom were very helpful, but I also got a lot of my information from a fan-written compendium about the first five seasons of The Amazing Race. If you want to know minutia about pop culture, it’s always best to talk to rabid fans; they’ve done much more digging than you’ll ever accomplish on your own.
As for narrowing down destinations, it actually wasn’t that difficult, but I can’t talk about my decision-making process without major spoilers! Let’s just say this: at each location, my characters had to do three challenges based on a very specific kind of local custom, so I could only send them to countries for which I could find three usable ideas.
Since its December and we are all about the holiday spirit around here, what do you think Claire and Miranda would be gifting each other this holiday season?
Miranda has noticed that Claire carries a Doctor Who bag, so the first thing she’ll Google when it’s time for Christmas shopping is “Doctor Who gifts.” She won’t know what this blue police box thing is supposed to be, but since it pops up everywhere, she’ll deduce that it’s probably pretty important, and she’ll buy Claire a TARDIS bathrobe. Claire will be delighted, thinking Miranda is finally taking some interest in the things she likes. But when she puts it on and makes a “bigger on the inside” joke, Miranda will just stare at her blankly.
Claire will buy Miranda the complete Freaks and Geeks on DVD. She’ll tell herself it’s just because she wants to introduce her sister to some great television, but secretly, she also wants Miranda to know what it felt like not to be popular in high school.
Thanks so much, Alison!
(Be sure to check out Alison’s appearance at this month’s BIG KIDS’ TABLE too!)