Alex, Approximately: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bailey “Mink” Rydell loves few things as much as she loves classic movies. It’s the basis for her entire relationship with Alex, a boy she met in a classic movie fan forum. Alex seems like the perfect guy for Bailey–the only problem is that she doesn’t know anything about him except for his profile name.

When Bailey moves cross country to live with her dad, it should be her opportunity to finally meet Alex in person. Except then she panics and starts to wonder if it wouldn’t be smarter to try and scope Alex out in real life before she makes any grand gesture. After all, what if he’s a total creep? Or a poser?

Her efforts to uncover Alex’s true identity are hampered by making sense of her new home, a new job at the local museum that is as kitschy as it is eccentric, and discovering a new nemesis. Porter Roth is cocky and quick to put her in her place in the most embarrassing ways. He’s also painfully good looking and impossible to ignore.

With two guys vying for her attentions Bailey has the rest of the summer to figure out if she’s willing to risk her heart on a messy reality instead of pining for a fantasy that may not exist offline in Alex, Approximately (2017) by Jenn Bennett.

Find it on Bookshop.

Alex, Approximately is a gentle standalone contemporary romance. Bennett introduces readers to Bailey’s new hometown with evocative landscapes, quirky shops, and all of Bailey’s awe. Epigraphs of quotes from classic films can be found at the start of each chapter.

Snarky banter, madcap shenanigans, and genuine moments of vulnerability help to develop Bailey and Porter’s relationship in this story about first impressions and connection. A varied and well-rounded cast of secondary characters add another layer to an already richly imagined novel.

Alex, Approximately is a sweet, summery book ideal for fans of stories with mistaken identities, hate to love romance, and fantastic vintage vespas.

Possible Pairings: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, Tweet Cute by Emma Lord, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes, Recommended For You by Laura Silverman, Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood, The Shop Around the Corner, You’ve Got Mail

Field Notes on Love: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Look, this is what I do. I tell stories. And stories are magic. Trust me on this.”

cover art for Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. SmithHugo is used to being a minor celebrity in England–that’s what happens when you’re a sextuplet. He’s used to being grouped with his siblings at home, at school, and even in posts on their mom’s parenting blog. He’s used to having a girlfriend and he’s dreading what happens when he starts college with all of his siblings next year.

But then his girlfriend dumps him and suddenly a lot of the givens in Hugo’s life are up in the air. Like the trip he and his now ex-girlfriend were going to take across the United States after graduation. Hugo still wants to go, is actually looking forward to the chance to travel alone if he’s being honest, but there’s one problem: the tickets are all booked under the name of his ex, Margaret Campbell. Nontransferable. No exceptions.

Margaret “Mae” Campbell has just been rejected from her dream film program. Her dads assure her that her application film was perfect. And Mae can always apply again as a transfer student. But with her life in small town New York already feeling so tiny, she’s ready to shake things up. Enter Hugo’s post online looking for a Margaret Campbell to take his spare ticket in exchange for making this trip happen.

Traveling together is meant to be a simple business arrangement. But how can Hugo help but be drawn in when Mae starts recording footage for a film about love? And how can Mae not want to help Hugo figure out how to follow his own dreams when she finds out how much he wants to learn who he is away from his brothers and sisters?

Sometimes you only get one chance to get what you want. As they near the end of their trip, Hugo and Mae have to decide how much they’re willing to put on the line for their dreams–and each other in Field Notes on Love (2019) by Jennifer E. Smith.

Find it on Bookshop.

Set over the course of their whirlwind trip, Field Notes on Love alternates closer third person chapters following Hugo and Mae. Smith populates this story with a distinct and memorable cast of characters including Hugo’s large, boisterous family as well as Mae’s dads and her grandmother.

Hugo and Mae are excellent foils as they push each other to chase their dreams even if it means going outside of their comfort zones. Mae’s practical, savvy personality is a perfect contrast to Hugo who is more of a dreamer and still figuring out what he wants from life. Although both characters have very different visions for their future, Smith presents each course thoughtfully and honestly.

Field Notes on Love captures the strange intimacy of being forced into a small space with a person you don’t know and uses that starting point to build a fully realized love story that is effervescent and sweet. Field Notes on Love is the perfect story for anyone who’s ever wanted to take a vacation from their life, ever dreamed of making a big change, and anyone who has ever wanted that intangible something more. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, Dramatically Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi, Save the Date by Morgan Matson, From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon, Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud, My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

My So-Called Bollywood Life: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Winnie Mehta’s future is all planned out. At least it was according to her family’s pandit. According to his star chart readings Winnie would meet the love her life before her eighteenth birthday. His name would start with the letter R and he would give her a silver bracelet.

The signs couldn’t have been clearer that Winnie’s true love was Raj. He meets every qualification.

Until Winnie comes home from a summer at film camp and finds out that Raj decided their break was more of a breakup.

Obviously Winnie is never going to love anyone ever again and the stars are liars.

Winnie can’t even lose herself in film club work at school when Raj ends up stealing her spot as chair of the student film festival.

Suddenly nothing about Winnie’s future is mapped out and her life seems to be taking a dramatic turn from her promised Bollywood style happy ending.

Fellow film geek Dev might be the only one who might understand and be able to help Winnie get back on track. Dev is funny, charming, and helps Winnie try to see beyond her prophecy. But as Winnie starts to fall for Dev she wonders if choosing him means she has to give up on her happy ending in My So-Called Bollywood Life (2018) by Nisha Sharma.

Find it on Bookshop.

Sharma’s debut YA novel is a zany contemporary romance sure to appeal to movie lovers. Each chapter starts with a snippet of a Bollywood movie review from Winnie’s blog. Back matter at the end of a book gives a rundown of all of the movies mentioned in the story and more.

Winnie is a smart, driven character but she is also prone to melodrama and quick decisions. (The novel opens with Winnie literally burying her past by digging a grave for all of the gifts she gave to her ex-boyfriend in the last three years.) This rash behavior leaves ample room for humor and misunderstandings befitting a book that is partially an ode to Bollywood films.

Winnie’s family speaks Punjabi and Hindi and the combination of cultures and customs imbues Winnie’s life and informs the story as much as her love of Bollywood films. Sweet romance, drama, and action make this novel pure escapist fun at its finest.

My So-Called Bollywood Life is a must read for movie lovers, Bollywood aficionados, and anyone looking for a great high school romance that has as many laughs as it does swoons.

Possible Pairings: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon, The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe, Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud, Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes, Lucky in Love by Kasie West, Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods

Now a Major Motion Picture: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

cover art for Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthyIris Thorne is dreading the movie adaptation of her grandmother’s Elementia books. Hailed as a feminist response to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings the Elementia books are seen as classic fantasy and have the diehard fans to prove it. The fandom even has a name: Thornians.

The movie adaptation is only going to make that worse. Iris and her family already had to deal with a crazy fan trying to abduct her younger brother, Ryder. She can’t imagine what will happen with a bigger fan base. Nothing good, that much is obvious.

Iris hopes that spending the summer in Ireland observing the production with Ryder will give her the perfect chance to sabotage the production. After all, if the movie never gets made no one will be able to watch it.

When Iris’s sabotage schemes are thwarted by dreamy leading actor Eamon and the crew’s infectious enthusiasm she starts to wonder if the one thing she has been dreading might also be the one thing she desperately needs in Now a Major Motion Picture (2018) by Cori McCarthy.

Find it on Bookshop.

Cori McCarthy’s latest standalone novel is a charming contemporary romance. Iris’s narration is razor sharp as she tries very hard to remain an outsider on the set even while the cast and crew do their best to befriend her.

Iris remembers the trauma her family has suffered because of the Elementia books and she is weary to let herself embrace that legacy even as she starts to learn more about its feminist themes and the director’s efforts to stay true to that in the adaptation. Iris is very much a fish out of water among the cast and crew and this is a charming story about how she starts to find her place there–and maybe even in her own family.

Now a Major Motion Picture has humor, a snarky narrator, and a swoony romance all set in a picturesque locale–in other words, all the makings of a perfect summer read.

Possible Pairings: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Eric Hicks, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle, Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

The Opposite of Here: A Review

“There’s always somewhere else I want to go, but when I get there I always want to leave.”

cover art for The Opposite of Here by Tara AltebrandoThe last thing Natalie wants to do for her seventeenth birthday is go on a “sail-a-bration” cruise with her parents and best friends. Even nine months after her boyfriend died in a car accident it still feels too soon.

But once the plan is in motion, Natalie realizes there’s nothing she can do to stop it.

Her best friends Lexi, Nora, and Charlotte are excited so Natalie tries to be too. Lexi is ready for all the fun the cruise has to offer–especially if her boyfriend Jason never has to hear about it. Nora has been down for a while and Natalie hopes that maybe the cruise will do her some good. Maybe she’ll even find a new guy to like, it’s been a while. Charlotte is used to keeping a low profile at school and following the rules. On the cruise no one cares if she’s black enough or white enough–she can just be herself.

Natalie’s low expectations for the cruise rise when she unexpectedly meets a cute guy. He’s funny and exciting and Natalie’s attraction is immediate. But she doesn’t see him after their moonlit conversation and he blows off their plans to meet later.

At first the rejection stings and Natalie is prepared to move on. But then she starts to wonder if there might be more to it than that. How can a guy disappear on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean? Is it crazy to think he might have jumped?

Natalie isn’t sure where to start when she doesn’t even know his name. But she knows she has too look. The only problem is that the harder Natalie looks for answers, the more questions she seems to uncover in The Opposite of Here (2018) by Tara Altebrando.

Find it on Bookshop.

Altebrando’s latest standalone thriller is a perfect balance of suspense and intrigue as Natalie begins to investigate the bizarre disappearance of the guy she meets on the first night of her cruise.

Instead of chapters the novel is broken into days with the cruise itinerary marking the start of each new section. Assigned by her film studies teacher to shoot a two line film during the cruise, Natalie also imagines various scenarios in short screenplay snippets.

While not quite unreliable, Natalie is a restrained narrator holding back information from readers, and maybe even form herself, as she tries to move past the worst events of the last year. She is sardonic, capable, and singular in her search for the (possibly) missing boy.

Because of its short length and close focus on Natalie the rest of the characters in The Opposite of Here can feel less dimensional by comparison although they do each have their own arcs–something Natalie and readers realize together as Natalie comes to understand that she wasn’t the only one affected by her boyfriend’s death or the events of the cruise.

Taut pacing and menace imbue the pages as the narrative toes the line between reality and the power of suggestion in this story that asks readers to separate fact from fiction. The Opposite of Here is a tense thriller sure to keep readers guessing right until the last page. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault, Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda, Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roerhig, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, Bad Girls With Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

The Romantics: A Review

The Romantics by Leah KonenGael Brennan is a textbook Romantic; he believes in love and he loves the idea of being in love. Unfortunately, life seems intent on squashing his Romantic tendencies first with his parents’ painful separation and a painful breakup with his first girlfriend.

Love has big plans for Gael and can see big things in his future. But only if Gael’s youthful relationships go a certain way–and do not include a dreaded Rebound. When Romantic Gael meets a Serial Monogamist, it seems like Love’s plans for Gael are doomed to failure.

Fortunately, Love has more than a few tricks ready to use to set Gael straight. In trying to redirect Gael’s path to the right romance, Love (and Gael) will realize that sometimes even the best relationships aren’t meant to last forever in The Romantics (2016) by Leah Konen.

The Romantics is narrated by Love who is an omniscient presence throughout the novel. Although Love does not interact with any characters directly, Love does play a hand in near-misses, coincidences, and other interventions to try and move things in the right direction with Gael.

Gael is a fun protagonist and his journey both with romantic love and his other relationships is authentic and entertaining. Gael has a lot of knocks between a painful breakup and his parents’ separation which is painful both in its reality and because it comes as such a shock to Gael and his younger sister.He is realistically angry and frustrated but also remains optimistic as he tries to move forward.

Although the story understandably spends a lot of time on Gael’s romantic travails, The Romantics also underscores that love comes in all forms–both romantic and not–including a really lovely friendship arc between Gael and his best friend Mason. (Though it is worth noting that the novel is generally hetero-normative as the main relationships remain male-female.)

Because Love spends time with all of the major characters, The Romantics also has a thoroughly developed cast and a plot that develops from multiple angles with some surprising results. The Romantics is a breezy and fun story and a sweet romance filled with witty asides from Love along with footnotes and illustrations. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows; Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, In Real Life by Jessica Love, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Flannery by Lisa Moore, My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, P. S. I Like You by Kasie West, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

You can also check out my interview with Leah Konen about this book.

In Some Other World, Maybe: A Review

In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari GoldhagenIn December 1992 four teenagers head to the movies to see the blockbuster film version of the Eons & Empires comics.

Adam is counting the days until he graduates. When his long-time crush invites him to the movies, he figures it’s his last chance to get the one thing he’s ever wanted in the town he can’t wait to leave.

In Cincinnati, Sharon can barely explain how much Eons & Empires means to her. She can’t imagine the horror of watching the movie with people who don’t understand her passion. Sharon’s decision to skip school to watch the movie on her own leads to potentially devastating consequences.

Technically, Phoebe kisses Oliver first in the cafeteria of their suburban Chicago high school. But it’s Ollie who asks Phoebe on a date and suggests they go see the big new release. Neither of them knows much about the comics but the movie should be a nice setting for their first date (and maybe more kissing). Or it would be if Phoebe’s kid brother would stop following them around and they could avoid everyone they know.

Seeing the movie on opening night will shape all of their lives in unpredictable ways over the next twenty years as their paths cross around the world and across the country. Their lives will entwine as they become friends and lovers, leaving indelible marks on each other. One small decision will have countless ramifications for each of them in In Some Other World, Maybe (2015) by Shari Goldhagen.

In Some Other World, Maybe alternates point of view between Adam, Phoebe, Sharon, and Oliver. Except for Oliver all of the narratives are written in third person. Oliver’s, by contrast, is a second person narration which lends a strange sense of foreboding to his passages.

These characters lives play out and intersect over twenty years against a backdrop of world events ranging from 9/11 to Sully Sullenberger landing his plane in the Hudson. The scope and reach of this story belies the relatively short length of the book.

Goldhagen explores the significant and seemingly meaningless ways people can pass through each others’ lives in this deceptively straightforward novel. Hypotheticals and alternate possibilities loom large for each character–a motif that contrasts well with the idea of parallel worlds which are key to the premise of Eons & Empires.

None of the characters are perfect here. Mistakes are made, lives are messy, and sometimes there is no way to fix that. Just like in real life. Adam, Phoebe, Sharon and Oliver aren’t always likable. They are not always at their best. But who is? In this complicated and confusing world, sometimes all you can do is keep waking up and keep trying. Which these characters do as best they can.

This story offers thoughtful commentary on the ways in which compromising and striving can start to look a lot alike. An introspective meditation on growing up and growing apart filled with characters who are shockingly memorable and utterly authentic, In Some Other World, Maybe is a novel guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Invincible Summer by Alice Adams, Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan, The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock, Infinite In Between by Carolyn Mackler, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Where Futures End by Parker Peeveyhouse, The Square Root of Summer by Harrier Reuter Hapgood, All the Feels by Danika Stone, Pivot Point by Kasie West

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Famous in Love: A Review

“I can’t touch him. The only thing I want to do is run to him and have him put his arms around me, to take me someplace that isn’t here. Someplace it’s just the two of us and none of this matters. But I can’t do that because no one knows. Not Wyatt and not Sandy, not even Cassandra. They think we’re just friends–that I belong to someone else. They don’t know that I’ve made a huge mistake. They don’t know that, like August, I chose wrong.”

Famous in Love by Rebecca SerleSeventeen-year-old Paige Townsen never expected her audition to for the coveted part of August to come to anything. She never thought she’d be the only unknown picked to star in the next big blockbuster when the bestselling book Locked was adapted for the big screen.

Except that’s exactly what happens and suddenly instead of starring in community theater productions and high school shorts, Paige is at the center of a major production. Her co-star, Rainer Devon, is right at Paige’s side helping her make sense of her sudden fame and the rigors that come from movie production.

When troubled actor Jordan Wilder is cast as the final piece in the love triangle at the center of the film, Paige’s life begins to uncomfortably imitate art as she is torn between these two very different young men. With everything changing, Paige will have to figure out who she is before she can begin to choose who she wants in Famous in Love (2014) by Rebecca Serle.

Find it on Bookshop.

Famous in Love is the first book in a trilogy. The “book-within-the-book” Locked is also slated for a tie-in publication.

Serle draws inspiration from real life celebrity drama to create this story of fame and romance. Readers will be with Paige from the start when she first hears about the audition right through to the post-production of the first film. While Paige vacillates between Rainer and Jordan throughout the book, both relationships feel authentic and offer very different things for Paige.

Although Paige’s friends and family often feel like one-note characters, they are happily present showing that Paige had a life before getting famous and will have support for whatever pitfalls Hollywood may have in store. Being the first in a trilogy, readers can expect a lot more love-triangle based drama as Paige is forced to choose both on-screen and off.

Famous in Love is an all-access pass to what happens off camera and behind the curtains of a movie production. Sure to appeal to hopeless romantics, celebrity junkies and movie fans alike.

Possible Pairings: Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler, Now & Forever by Susane Colasanti, Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan, A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, The Romantics by Leah Konen, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy

*A copy of this book was required for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2014*

In which I talk about seeing Divergent (with photos!)

Last Friday a very cool thing happened. A coworker at Shiny Job transferred her RSVP over to me for a screening of Divergent on opening night hosted by Veronica Roth’s agent/agency the New Leaf Agency. (Another coworker transferred her RSVP to workfriend so I didn’t even have to go alone.)

My invite felt a bit like a golden ticket.

invite

Finding the building with the screening was much harder than it should have been because I got turned around and lost and the building entrance was on a corner.

Along the way I discovered that 6 1/2 Avenue is a thing.

6halfave1

But once I got there the screening room was pretty swank.

There were snacks and swag bags and other goodies (like a signed book plate–yay) that made the whole night feel festive. I also got to see some of the posters for the movie.

poster3 post2 poster1

After enjoying some faction specific cake pops (Erudite and Abnegation–I didn’t get a chance to photograph the others, alas).

eruditepop abnegationpop

It was time for the movie!

theater1

Now I enjoyed Divergent when I read it. But my excitement about the series diminished over time and I was less and less inclined to read the other books after seeing how the trilogy ended when I came upon some spoilers. I also wasn’t prepared to re-read Divergent just so I could catch up on the backstory to book two (which starts really close to the end of book one).

But guess what?

The movie was really good.

I remembered why I loved the characters. I remembered how cinematic the story felt and how kickass Tris is.

The costumes were amazing. The actors were excellent. (I’ve been a fan of Theo James since his one-season series “Golden Boy” and he was great here too. It was a little strange that he looked so much older than Shailene Woodley but, you know what, they were great together and I’ll let it slide. And everyone else in the movie was really great too. It was a talented, diverse cast and really well done.) The factions and the world building were so well-realized. And I’m really excited about this series again.

Some things were cut from the book but it was all of the things that kept me on the fence about the book in the first place. Workfriend hadn’t read the book but she also enjoyed and followed the movie, so it’s a win in every sense.

I urge all of you to get to the theater to see Divergent as soon as you can and to get on board for reading the book if you haven’t already.

(I have Insurgent and Allegiant on hold so hopefully they’ll come in soon!)

 

You Look Different in Real Life: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer CastleJustine is used to people recognizing her, acting like they know here even if they’re strangers. That’s what happens when your childhood is filmed as part of an award-winning documentary.

It started when Justine was six. She was filmed with four other students in her kindergarten class. Then again when she turned eleven.

Justine is sixteen now and it’s time for Lance and Leslie to come back for another film. But Justine doesn’t want anything to do with it.

She can see why Lance and Leslie picked the other kids: quirky Nate, smart Keira, outgoing Felix and Rory who did whatever she wanted. Justine never saw that same spark, that piece of interesting, in herself.

Reviewers always call Justine the star, the edgy one. They expect great things from her. But now, at sixteen, Justine feels anything but as she is forced to look not just at her unamazing life but also at the friendships that have shattered since Five at 6 and Five at 11 were filmed.

Now that a new film is coming Justine isn’t sure if she should be excited or terrified. This film might be her chance to finally prove that she is as amazing as everyone thinks and maybe even fix some friendships along the way. But it also might not fix anything. It might just confirm Justine’s suspicions that she is anything but film-worthy in You Look Different in Real Life (2013) by Jennifer Castle.

Sometimes when you read a book you go in with expectations of the story you will get. And sometimes that expected story is nothing like the story the author has written. Unfortunately that was the case with You Look Different in Real Life. I went in wanting details of the previous documentaries and the current filming. Instead I got cursory flashbacks and vague references to the crew. In the second half of the novel the documentary plot became very secondary to another character’s storyline so that the whole premise began to feel more gimmicky and less vital to the story.

You Look Different in Real Life also ends just when things should be getting interesting. Justine has a breakthrough about some aspect of the filming. But we never get to know what it actually is. By the end of the book it felt like Castle was only giving readers half the story as the documentary was forgotten (having already served its purpose as an inciting incident.)

Justine should have been a sympathetic, authentic narrator. She should have had original experiences and a unique take on things thanks to being the subject of a series of documentaries. Instead Justine came across as very one-dimensional and unbearably whiny. While she does have a clear development from beginning to end, her lack of self-esteem and confidence in the beginning was overwhelming to the point that her own self criticisms began to make me feel bad about my own life. That’s completely unacceptable.

Justine’s short-comings are lessened, slightly, thanks to the supporting cast. That is until a lot of them fell into predictable character types with equally unsurprising side stories. There are a lot of near-misses and false starts at the characters try to reconnect and, ultimately, it all just felt very forced.

If you want an okay book about a girl coming into her own and discovering her own talents and strengths, You Look Different in Real Life is a decent choice. It doesn’t have the best heroine or language (Justine moved with surprising frequency between acting/sounding much younger than sixteen and acting/sounding much older) but all of the elements are there for a quick, fairly fun read. If you want a book that focuses more on the effects of being on film or performing you’ll be better served picking up something like Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Possible Pairings: Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going, You Don’t Know Me by David Klass, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*