Release date: June 4th 2013.
Hardcover, 368 pages.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
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.
What happens when the cameras stop rolling?
Justine has lived her life in front of the camera since the age of six, signed up, along with five other kids to participate in a series of documentaries that would follow her life in installments until the age of twenty one. Six year old Justine was a natural in front of the camera. At eleven, her quick tongue and edgy style made her the break-out star of the movies. Now the filmmakers are back – it’s time to reunite for the third installment. Only problem is, Justine isn’t sure she wants her life to play out in public any more –she’s not sure she has a life that people will want to see. And those other kids from the documentaries, well, they might have been her friends once upon a time, but now, not so much.
Jennifer Castle’s You Look Different in Real Life has a great premise – and it’s a smart, funny, insightful read that kept me fully engaged from beginning to end. Reading about what makes, shapes, and sometimes breaks people has always interested me, and in that sense, this book is a perfect study in character, as we follow these five kids from the ages of six through sixteen learning how they’ve been shaped by their life experiences – and in their dealings with each other.
Our narrator is Justine, and just like the protagonist in Castle’s debut The Beginning of After, headstrong Justine is something of an acquired taste. She has a strong narrative voice to go along with her strong personality – sometimes bratty, wholly self-centered – so much so that at times I found myself wishing that this was a multiple-POV book. That said we get to know the other participants in the ‘Five At’ documentaries pretty well. Felix, Nate, Rory and Keira all have their own issues to deal with, and their own stories to tell. Each character is interesting – from beautiful and enigmatic Keira to Nate, the boy who was bullied as a kid, and who has now transformed into the guy that all the guys want to be and all the girls want to be with. So, what happened in Nate’s life to bring about such a transformation, and why did his friendship with former best friend Felix fall apart? Same goes for Justine and Rory who used to be best friends, but who now no longer talk at all. As for Keira – she hates Justine for reasons Justine can’t figure out. Looks like the ‘Five At’ kids have a lot of issues to sort out during the course of this documentary.
Along with its great premise, I loved how this book segued into road trip territory, complete with a soundtrack, snacks, some impromptu partying and an adopted rabbit – so all the required ingredients for a great road trip, then! There’s also romance – it’s teasing and slow burning – but read between the lines right from the start – and it’s there. I loved the smidge of romance in this one, and wished for more, but You Look Different in Real Life is not all about romance, it’s a book of growing up and self-discovery and for Justine it’s about casting off the persona created by those documentaries and letting go of the past to become the person she really is – the person she needs to be.