Friday, August 09, 2013

Review: You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

Title: You Look Different in Real Life
Author: Jennifer Castle
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 4th 2013
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA - I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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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, just 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.

 My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I'm not sure what to make of You Look Different in Real Life. I really liked Jennifer Castle's writing; she has a knack for keen character development. Still, I found almost all storylines underdeveloped, and ended up feeling just a little underwhelmed by the whole story.

You Look Different in Real Life has such a unique premise. The whole idea of the documentaries is, to be honest, pretty weird - honestly, I don't see myself wanting to watch those documentaries in real life, if they're just about these random 6- and 11-year-olds and their normal lives. But for the sake of the story, it totally works, and it causes for a great set-up, throwing such a random group of 16-year-olds together and exploring the history they all share.

What I liked most were the characters. Even though it might seem like it at first, none of these 5 are one-dimensional or cliched; the characters are complex and real. I can't even choose a favorite character, because I loved all of them - Nate, Felix, Keira, Rory, and Justine each have their story to tell, and I wanted to hear each one of them.

Maybe that was the problem, though. Maybe there's just too much going on. I wanted more depth to each character's storyline; they're all fascinating, but because there's so many characters and relationships to explore, I don't feel like any one thing got the spotlight it deserved.

I get that only getting such a brief insight into these characters' lives is kind of the point, that it's necessary for this kind of format. But it still made it hard for me to see the point of it all. I felt like there was something missing to bring all of these storylines together, to form whole with some kind of coherent message. 

This novel had a lot of potential, and there were parts of it I really enjoyed. But with so many interesting storylines, none of them got explored in enough depth, leaving me underwhelmed at the end. Jennifer Castle's writing and character development are great, though, so I'm definitely planning on reading her debut, The Beginning of After, as well as any future novels.


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