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Real Or Not Real: Cults Are Cray

Jenny reviews Joelle Anthony's The Right & The Real, a book about a girl, her dad, and a cult.

Real Or Not Real: Cults Are Cray

BOOK REPORT for The Right & The Real, by Joelle Anthony

Cover Story: Black and White and Read All Over
BFF Charm: Yay  
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Straight Up    
Bonus Factors: Coffee Shop, Theatre Kids      
Anti-Bonus Factors: Cults, Theatre Kids, Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: I'll Join Your Cult    

Cover Story: Black and White and Read All Over

I actually love this cover, even though it has a BIG FACE! GASP! Because the face is balanced out by the color and awesome use of words. There's no shame in carrying this book around, and as a plus, the model on the cover actually fits the description of our heroine perfectly!

The Deal:

Jamie knew things were effed up at the church of the Right & the Real, but she loved her boyfriend, and he was stuck there because of his family until he could graduate and get out of town, so she put up with attending services and dressing like an extra on Little House. What she didn't count on, however, was her dad -- with his addictive personality -- becoming involved with the Right & the Real and buying what they were selling hook, line and sinker. She didn't count on him marrying one of the church's fervent single ladies, and she certainly didn't count on being kicked out of her house and excommunicated from her father for being a "sinner."

BFF Charm: Yay

Not that Jamie needs another BFF, because between Krista, Liz, and the awesome people she meets when she's on her own, girlfriend's covered. And, truth be told, YA me is the one who would actually want to be BFFs with Jamie, because… she is a theatre kid, and while adult me can look back on those days fondly, it's still with a wince. Regardless, I was impressed by her level-headedness in a time when most teenagers would have probably -- and understandably -- crumbled. There were times when I wanted to pull my hair and yell "Just TELL somebody already!!!" but understood that much like my good friend Harry Potter, Jamie hadn't really ever had any adults she could count on, so I tried to cut her some slack.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Some of you, much like Krista and Liz, might not like one of the boys in our story. Or at least you might think his actions are unforgivable. I liked him, though. I thought he was a really sweet guy caught in a terrible position, and he made some selfish choices.

I think we can all agree, however, that most of the swoon came from the adorable, offbeat boy behind door number two, and Joelle Anthony manages to squeeze in quite a few fun and flirty and sweet and romantic moments between all of the drama and suspense.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

Anthony writes a novel that is compelling and surprisingly full of action. And she manages to do it in the voice of a very particular sort of teen. Her characters felt realistic, even in their over-the-topness (these are drama kids, remember?). There were some plot points that fit together almost too neatly, but overall my suspension of disbelief wasn't challenged, and I devoured this book in a couple of very busy days.

Bonus Factor: Coffee Shop

Forget just hanging out in one, every person should have the experience of working in a coffee shop. The fun, the pressure, the burns, the smell of bleach, the tips, the getting yelled at for letting the skim carafe sit empty, and most of all: the flirting.

Bonus Factor: Theatre Kids

Lake Stevens High School Drama Club, Lake Stevens, WA

Theatre kids! They're so quirky! They run around singing show tunes and/or Weird Al songs! And acting out scenes! And wearing costumes! In public places! They are so dear to my heart, because I was one, if only for a year. But they also make me cringe a little bit. Because I was one, if only for a year.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Cults

I LOVE stories with cults in them!!!!! Because cults are so terrifying! And they exist! Right now! As I am typing this! They are existing!  There are people in this country who have multiple wives, and believe we're from outer space, and that their pastor actually has a link to the Almighty God, and who make women walk behind men or not make a sound during childbirth!  Let's shut them down!

Anti-Bonus Factor: Theatre Kids

Oxford High School Drama Club, Oxford, MI

Theatre kids! They're so quirky! They run around singing show tunes and/or Weird Al songs! And acting out scenes! And wearing costumes! In public places! They are so dear to my heart, because I was one, if only for a year. But they also make me cringe a little bit. Because I was one, if only for a year.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting

Okay, so your mom's a druggie, and your dad's addictive personality makes him so unstable that his joining a cult and signing away the rights to his -- and your -- life really shouldn't be that much of a surprise. But one of the things I loved about Jamie and this story is that no matter how much both her parents had brought about the WTFery that was her life, she still moves forward and chooses to forgive.

Casting Call:

Let's see, who could not only pull off a pixie cut, but be a theatre kid and still make me adore her?

Emma Watson as Jamie

Relationship Status: I'll Join Your Cult

Okay listen book. I'm usually pretty savvy when it comes to organized religion and politics and scams and the like. But there's just something so charismatic about you, and everything you say makes so much goddamn sense! So, while I'm washing your feet and anointing your head with oil -- we have to do something until my life insurance benefits are fully transferred over to you -- I was wondering, could you tell me a story?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from  Penguin.  I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!).The Right & The Real is available now.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
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