If you like Gossip Girls, Lauren Conrad books and MTV’s The Hills- but more to make fun and/or due to a sick fascination with that kind of lifestyle, The Real Real is the book for you. The reality begins in the offseason of the Hamptons when XTV (designed to represent MTV) comes to the local high school and announces they want to do a show about the real kids of the area. In a town where big money is the norm, and the wealth disparity is wider than the Mississippi river, everyone assumes the stars will be the crème de la crème of the high school. Little did they expect that a nobody would be chosen, especially not Jesse O’Rourke whose father serves and mother cleans for the rest of the elite cast. Her clothes aren’t designer, she has an afterschool job, and she’s more concerned with getting into (and financing) Georgetown University, than starring in her own reality show. But something about her catches the eye of supreme d-bag and show producer Fletch, and a $40,000 scholarship from Doritos sweetens the pot enough to make it an offer she cannot refuse.
Instantly Jesse’s thrown into a world that no one could have expected, nonetheless wished for. Her best friend hates her for making it when she didn’t, she never gets to see Drew- the only other normal kid on the cast whom she’s also kind of sweet on, and her life, clothes, and personality are no longer her own. Each day she’s staged with her new “best friends” who were chosen for the show, has thirty layers of make-up put on her, forced into designer clothes that the rest of her peers resent her for, and put into morally questionable situations. The drama continues to escalate, and as XTV ramps them up more and more, Jesse loses more of herself. The worst though, comes when the show is finally aired and the only thing real about it is the judgment passed by her family and friends.
Perhaps the best part of The Real Real is its commentary on reality shows and the falsities they promulgate. For the first time I found myself thinking about all those people on TV whom I blindly judge and declare that they asked for it, because they signed up for it. Yes, clearly they did agree, but I can’t fathom the way it takes over, and in some cases, destroys their lives. No wonder they become caricatures of real people. Watching Jesse struggle and try to overcome that, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, put that whole pop culture phenomenon into perspective. It’s certainly a scathing commentary on painting teenagers in such a light and having the audacity to ever call it reality.
I would definitely recommend this book, even if you don’t enjoy mocking The Hills. It’s a quick fun read and the ending will surprise you. But most of all, the characters are real.