Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reality Ends Here

Guilty Pleasure admission: I love reality TV.  I tend to go more toward the weight loss/cooking challenge shows, though.  The others make me feel better about myself for an episode or two, and then I just feel sad/frustrated/over the characters and drama.  I did watch all episodes of Jon & Kate Plus 8 (stopped when it became Kate Plus 8).

That is what got my interest piqued for Edgar-nominated Alison Gaylin's YA mystery: Reality Ends Here.

Estella Blanchard's father died 10 years ago. Since then, her mother has re-married.  For the past 6 years, Estella's life has gained a new stepfather, sextuplet half-siblings, and a reality show- Seven Is Heaven. It's hard enough being a teenager- without having an image-obsessed family, and your life being caught on camera 24/7.  After a viral video-worthy incident, Estella is forced to attend "therapy" for troubled child stars- run by "not Gary Coleman." 

To add fuel to the fire, she's got a paparazzo stalker, who swears her dad is still alive; she keeps seeing the same sketchy people in the oddest places- and of course there's the huge crush on a boy band pop star!  Will life ever have any semblance of normality for Estella?

I really enjoyed this book.  It was an entertaining mystery (and I tend to not go for mysteries).  I thought Estella was spunky and likable.  She had a good relationship with her siblings- teaching them sign language to communicate privately, though cameras were all around.  I will say, I rolled my eyes at her Mom enough to strain them.

The child star (and former child star) characters were SO entertaining.  You'd be feeling sad for them one minute, and laughing at their antics the next- while still feeling sad.  It was amazing the lengths the stars would go to to either keep things hidden, or to get noticed.  There was a lot of pop-culture name dropping: Teen Choice Awards, One Direction, Bieber, Gomez, Scarlett Johansson, Full House, etc.  So that will make it relatable to teens and tweens.

The mystery aspect was good.  I mean, it's not Dan Brown, but it got (and kept) me interested.  A slight clue would be dropped, and I would wonder "wait...where did that come from???" or "how did that disappear?" or "what is the relationship between this and that?"  It kept me guessing, and made me want to keep turning pages. 

I also liked the way the book showed how unrealistic Reality TV is.  Staging fights, planting objects, exploiting emotions, and sponsors up the wazoo!

All in all- I thought Reality Ends Here was an entertaining, pop-culture mystery!

 Reality Ends Here eBook is published by Simon & Schuster.

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