Something Real

Out next February is a book you’ll want to watch out for if you’re interested in thinking about how reality shows warp their participants and what it might be like to grow up in one. Something Real explores home, family, and the conflict between our public and authentic selves… particularly when one doesn’t have a choice about always being on camera.

Bonnie Baker was born on television, and until four years ago, she’d lived her entire life there. She and her 12 brothers and sisters starred on the reality show Baker’s Dozen. Now, she’s turning 17, unsure what she’ll do when she graduates from high school, and freaking out because Mom wants to put the whole brood back on TV. It’s taken her a long time to adjust back to being a regular girl, and she knows how quickly it can all be ruined, with everyone around them treating like entertainment characters instead of people.

Their show ended due to some unpleasantness, as well as her parents divorcing, and Bonnie’s already been through the tabloid ringer. She wants a chance to be normal, with a couple of close friends and a boy she’s got a crush on. Bringing the cameras back, particularly after some tough teen moments, won’t be good for her, but her mother thinks she’s just being selfish. Bonnie knows, though, how fragile her mental state is and how much the constant filming has warped them all.

The mother never becomes much of a character, but one might argue she doesn’t need to be. This is Bonnie’s story, and it’s an engrossing one. Her brother Benton plays a significant supporting role as well, with his own secrets and struggles.

I’d never before thought what it might be like to be a reality kid, living in spotlights without ever being given the choice whether to do so, and without parents doing their proper job of protecting you. I was rooting for Bonnie the whole way, and I loved following her struggles and journey. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

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