Here’s the thing. I liked a lot about Something Real by Heather Demetrios. The book follows a girl–Chloe Baker, now seventeen–who grew up on a reality TV show. Think Jon & Kate Plus 8. Yes, exactly. Only her family is Baker’s Dozen. So, her family is off TV, and she’s trying to lead a normal life. The fallout from growing up on reality TV and the impact it has on the family relationships are all well-handled and interesting.
The boy stuff.
Oh my god, the boy stuff.
My two big issues with the boy are:
- She sacrifices the best friends at the altar of the boyfriend.
- The character and the boyfriend fall in instalove.
The boyfriend is also perfect in every way, which compounds issues one and two.
I think my biggest issue here is that the narrative didn’t support either of the decisions the author made.
What follows contains mild spoilers for the book, but, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t give away any major plot points.
Let’s start with the best friend stuff, shall we?
In the story, Chloe has been at her current school for a year and a half. In that time, she has made two best friends. She doesn’t want them to know about her past life, so she never invites them over and when she’s stressed out, says she has “family stuff” going on. She talks to them every day and hangs out with them most weekends.
She has a crush on this boy Patrick who sits behind her in government class (“gov” in the book), and they engage in some heavy flirting.
So, of course, when Chloe’s secret comes out, Tessa and Meredith (her best friends for the past year and a half) avoid her because they are angry and betrayed. Patrick, the boy she went on one date with, totally doesn’t care and just wants to be with her because he really, really likes her and none of that fame stuff matters. And he goes out of his way to see her privately just to tell her how little it matters and how much he likes her.
Best friends = year and a half.
Boy = one date.
Both best friends are mad, btw. Both of them avoid her. Neither of them reaches out to her or makes an effort to pull her aside to find out why she felt she couldn’t trust them or to reassure her that it’s weird, but they’ll, you know, figure it out. One of them gives her a “WTF?” in the hallway and then fades into the background.
Instead we get an entire chapter of new boy saying how okay this all is and, like, a one or two paragraph make up session with her friends.
And so it continues throughout the book. It isn’t long before Patrick and Chloe are declaring their love for each other. The tabloids come around and he’s totally fine with all of that. Because he loves her. All of their fights are about how she doesn’t trust him, and he just wants to be with her and he doesn’t care about the fame stuff! He really doesn’t! Why can’t she believe that?
Somewhere in the narrative, Demetrios points out that Chloe has been burned before by people only wanting to be close to her because of the show.
And I found myself thinking that the novel would have been much more believable if Patrick had ALREADY BEEN her longtime boyfriend. Like, why did it have to be new boy who she just met? Then, at least, his annoyance at her lack of trust would make sense. Then, at least, his frustration at her constantly pushing him away with this big news would make sense. But don’t sell me this remarkable love story about this girl who just started dating this dude, and now they’re in love and he’s totally fine risking his privacy for a girl he just started dating.
If they had been dating when the story started and it was established that they had been in this relationship, and then he found out she was the girl from the TV show, and he was willing to stand by her, I would have found that a much more compelling and believable love story. Since the structure of the novel (and the cover) are prizing this as a love story, I think that’s more emotionally honest than having the boy the main character is crushing on be this amazing and unflappable boy even though they barely know each other.
It also would have been much more respectful of the teen audience.
And it would have been much more respectful of Chloe’s relationship with her best friends.
It’s also especially annoying because everything else about the book was so good. Sigh.