Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart . . . because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life that she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.
Something Real is a wonderful book exploring what it means to be a teenage reality TV star, as well as familial relationships. It’s a harrowing look into the pressures of fame and the lack of privacy that children are submitted to, often against their own will. Chloe Baker has been in the limelight her whole life. She was born on camera and has been part of the Baker’s Dozen TV show since that day. After a suicide attempt when she was 14 years old, the show was called off and her parents promised that they’d never go back. She even changed her name from Bonnie™ to Chloe to create a new life for herself. But when Chloe comes home one day in her senior year of high school, she finds her house transformed into a reality TV set and her life back on display again. This time, she’s having none of it and will do anything to not have her life scripted and watched 24/7, especially now that she’s finally attending school and has a boy she likes.
I thought Heather Demetrios did a fantastic job of taking us into the lives of reality TV stars. She’s really captured all of the negative aspects of being in the public eye, including Chloe not having the freedom to wear what she wants, being late for school because she had to do multiple takes of her pouring cereal from a brand that’s sponsoring the show, and having no privacy even in her own home. On top of all of that, her mother ignores her concerns and forces her to participate in the show even though she continually expresses her dislike of it. Chloe’s relationship with her mother made me uncomfortable throughout most of the book and it was honestly really upsetting to see a mother treat her daughter with such little respect and care. There are very few parents in books that I hate but I have to say that Beth™ Baker is one of them. She forces her kids to be on a show that they don’t want to be on and punish them when they express their dislikes. There’s one scene where she even calls Chloe a name and hits her, which made me really angry and emotional. I thought she was just so extremely selfish and should definitely not be allowed to have 13 kids! It really angered me that her reason for bringing the show back was because the family didn’t have money to support 13 kids and two adults… because she shouldn’t have adopted all those kids anyway.
I thought Chloe was such a strong character. She had the courage to speak up even though it didn’t lead to results most of the time. And she also didn’t allow the show to stop her from having a life. She did have some weak moments where she gave in to the show’s demands or tried to be too self-sacrificing and ended her relationships with those around her but I thought it was all very realistic and I really connected with her struggles and feelings. I also really enjoyed her relationships with those around her. Even though her relationship with both of her parents were quite toxic, she had a beautiful relationship with her older brother, Benny, who’s also a senior at her high school. The two of them support each other throughout the book and it was just really nice to see siblings being so close. They understood what the other was going through and their relationship was supportive and empowering. I also loved her friendships with Tessa and Mer, her best friends at school. I loved that they never judged Chloe and were there for her when she needed someone to talk to. They were such great friends and I loved them to pieces.
But of course, my favourite relationship in the book was the romantic one between Chloe and Patrick. Patrick is just perfection. He’s smart and kind, and it was obvious from the first time we met him that he really cared for Chloe and her wellbeing. He was there for her during her meltdowns and was just such a supportive boyfriend. I also liked that they got together quite early in the book and that the whole novel was just filled with super sweet moments between them. Sweet, swoony moments. My heart was so satisfied with this romance.
I highly recommend Something Real if you’re looking for a contemporary romance with some deeper and more serious themes. The book does a great job of exploring what it means to be a reality TV star and how damaging it can be on relationships and other normal things that we take for granted. The writing in the book is wonderful and I just love everything that Heather Demetrios writes!
Check out my review of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios.