What I'm Reading: Get Even by Gretchen McNeil

Monday, September 16, 2013

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

I thought this Jennifer Castle story sounded cute when I was shopping around on the Nook site. It wasn't available just then, but I downloaded it when it was released, and I read it shortly thereafter. I was in the mood for something light, and thought, based on the summary that this one would fit the bill.

Here's the summary from Goodreads: For the rest of the world, the movies are entertainment. For Justine, they're real life. The premise was simple: five kids, just living their lives. There'd be a new movie about them every five years, starting in kindergarten. But no one could have predicted what the cameras would capture. And no one could have predicted that Justine would be the star. Now sixteen, Justine doesn't feel like a star anymore. In fact, when she hears the crew has gotten the green light to film Five at Sixteen, all she feels is dread. The kids who shared the same table in kindergarten have become teenagers who hardly know one another. And Justine, who was so funny and edgy in the first two movies, feels like a disappointment. But these teens have a bond that goes deeper than what's on film. They've all shared the painful details of their lives with countless viewers. They all know how it feels to have fans as well as friends. So when this latest movie gives them the chance to reunite, Justine and her costars are going to take it. Because sometimes, the only way to see yourself is through someone else's eyes.

What I Liked: 1) I enjoyed Justine and Felix. Over the course of the book you get the chance to explore this relationship and it's kind of...well, a little off-balance, like some of the most interesting relationships can be. There is a lot of humor in it, and also a fair amount of heartache. 2) I can't ignore the relationships of the other kids involved in the "Five at Five" series. They've changed so much over the years that these relationships had to be hard to write, and I definitely appreciate the care that Miz Castle took with them. 3) My favorite thing about this story was the idea. Five kids, chosen at age five that would be documented as they aged together, and the whole world would watch them grow up. I thought this idea would play out very interestingly, no matter what direction she came from it.

What I Didn't Like: Unfortunately, much of this book did not hold up to the expectations I had. The idea had great potential, but none of the major changes that the kids made were fully explored, definitely not enough to make me feel as if I was truly understanding them. There was no depth to the story, and I missed it. I understood going into it that it was going to be a lighter book, but it really could have floated away. There was nothing to hold my attention. And I would have liked to see more attention to detail. Sometimes, in a more lighthearted story, it's the details that grounds it to reality. You Look Different in Real Life was missing that element. And finally, more attention to characters as individuals (I feel like I'm repeating myself...) I'm starting to notice a pattern with stories that revolve around a group of people, that the group dynamic is fully explored but characters as individuals are not. I can't get behind that as a writing tool. I need more from each character if I am going to relate to them.

Overall Thoughts: I was bummed that I didn't enjoy this story more. This is my first Jennifer Castle book, and I hope it won't be my last, but I just was not impressed with the elements of the story. There was some great potential, so clearly Miz Castle is very creative. But I think character development and story depth can definitely use some work. This was a one-shot, so I'm hoping for something better on Miz Castle's next one out of the gate.

My Rating: 1 shot


  1. This kind of sounds like The Truman Show with Jim Carrey, but following five people instead of one. I really liked that movie, so it's a shame this book didn't go over so well. It's also disappointing to hear that the character development wasn't better as it would seem to me this kind of book needs strong and deep characters to really make it successful. Sorry you didn't enjoy it, but great review! I appreciate it when a reviewer can actually pinpoint what did or didn't work for them.

    Wendy @ Escape Into Fiction

    1. Yes, it was very similar to the Truman Show. But of course, the kiddos knew they were being filmed. Thanks for your compliments!


  2. I read The Beginning of After (I think that was the title?) over the summer, and had a lot of the same thoughts. It was okay, but not wow. And I was expecting much, much more. I'm sorry that this one didn't live up to your expectations either =(


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