Cover of Something Real: yellow background, illustration of different TVs stacked on top of each other, with bottom centre TV showing the backs of a couple sitting on a park bench

About the Book

Title: Something Real (Something Real #1)
Published: 2014
Series: Something Real
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: We’re Experiencing Technical Difficulties
BFF Charm: Ron Swanson
Talky Talk: Straight Up with a Dash of E! True Hollywood Story
Bonus Factors: Reality TV, Diversity, 1984
Relationship Status: High School Sweethearts

Cover Story: We’re Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Y’all, I love COLORS, esp. those that are BRIGHT and OBNOXIOUS, but this is a Technicolor nightmare: Most of those TVs probably predate remotes. And why is that font for “Real” from Office 2003 WordArt? This cover so does not get a season pass.

The Deal:

For the past four years, Bonnie™ Baker has been trying to escape Baker’s Dozen, the reality show that catapulted her and her family of 13 kids to B-List celebrity-dom. (No one needs that much—or any, omg—documentation of those awkward tween years, amirite?) Having changed her name and appearance, the new Chloe is more than happy to slink into obscurity. Just one hitch, though: Baker’s Dozen is getting revived. And Chloe’s going to have to take a stand to preserve the new life that she’s worked so hard to build.

BFF Charm: Ron Swanson

BFF charm with teary eyes hugging a heart

Oh, Chloe. That desperate desire for normalcy is something anyone that didn’t (or doesn’t) quite fit in can relate to. Add to the fact that you’ve had no say in having your life televised since quite literally birth, and my heart breaks for you a thousand times over. (Not to mention that we’d be goody-goody and musical soul sisters, and you know where all the good thrift stores are!)

My gut instinct is to make like my fave parks and rec director Ron Swanson, whose solution to every problem is to live inside a mountain—a blissfully technology and social media-free mountain. Then again, that means we’d have to churn our own butter and whittle our own furniture. (Or, more likely, learn to live without butter and furniture, since I can do neither of those things.) And retreating into isolation would only increase the control that Baker’s Dozen has over Chloe’s life. So instead, I’ll do the very un-Swanson thing of whisking her off to travel around the world that she so desperately wishes to see.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6 + 2 = 8

Sigh, the romances in this book make even the coldest and darkest hearts (ahem, such as that of your reviewer) cast aside their cynicism. The relationships aren’t sickly sweet, but they’re such ideal first loves. Chloe’s been full-time crushing on Patrick Sheldon (yes, he needs full name status), whose swooniness manages to transcend the greasy state of his hair and the occasional inclination for cheesiness. (But GOOD cheese. Like the wine-pairing fancy kinds that are only found at specialty markets. Or, for my definition of yummy cheese, Mini Babybel.) 

And SUPERLATIVES EXCLAMATION MARKS for Chloe’s brother, Benton™, and his longtime boyfriend, Matt. Not since mysterious loner dude extraordinaire Marcus Flutie has a red shirt been used to such great effect. YEAH, I WENT THERE.

Talky Talk: Straight Up with a Dash of E! True Hollywood Story

“Something real” might as well describe Heather Demetrios’ writing style, ’cause the lady had me nodding my head in agreement and bookmarking all over the place. And if this isn’t the mantra of the misunderstood teenager, I don’t know what is:

Why do people think it’s okay to chalk all teen emotion up to hormones? As if they’re less real or something.

Along with Chloe’s recollection, presented as a memoir, are omnipresent reminders of the impact of Baker’s Dozen on her family: show transcripts, articles, name trademarks and time references of TV seasons rather than years. It takes a little getting used to, but it def. contributes to the sense of how effed up from the neck up this sitch is.

Bonus Factor: Reality TV

Screenshot from an installment of the Up Series, with three young girls going down a slide together

As someone who can still rattle off the names of Jon, Kate, and their Eight, I’ve since done a complete 180 re: kid-centric reality shows. I’m sure there are or will be children that emerge from the experience unscathed, but I can’t help my kneejerk Helen Lovejoy reaction. (“The children! Won’t somebody please think of the children?!”)

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

No need to feel excessive sympathy for Bonnie’s mom’s uterus (or for her at all, but anyway), since she had her 12 kids other than Bonnie via surrogacy or adoption, both internationally and through foster care. I totally dig the shout-outs to another prolific multicultural family, with two of Chloe’s siblings being named Farrow™ and Lark™. And racial diversity extends to Chloe and Benny’s circle of friends, too.

Bonus Factor: 1984

Book cover, with "1984" in giant red text and a single eye below

Pretty much the only non-heinous grownups are the ones at Chloe and Benny’s school, with the best being Schwartz, the gov teacher that has Chloe’s class studying 1984. Obvs, its theme of constant surveillance strikes a familiar chord with her.

Relationship Status: High School Sweethearts

Even though this book has a STRESSFUL home life, its characters utterly charmed me and won me over. I don’t know if it’ll find a permanent place in my heart, but the memories of our time together will always give me the warm fuzzies.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from publisher/source. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. Something Real is available now.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.