Monday, December 3, 2012

Reality Check

Reality Check
Jen Calonita
ISBN: 978-0316045544
Little Brown, 2010

Plot Summary: Sixteen-year-old Charlie works in a small cafĂ© in her hometown of Cliffside—a summer retreat that’s utterly boring in the off season. She spends most of her time with her three best friends, Kieran, the shy girl; Hallie, the girl all the boys want; and Brooke, a former rich girl who is trying to hide her new life as a farm girl. Charlie has big plans for college but her family lacks the funds to get her there so it sounds like a dream come true when her new customer, Susan, reveals that she’s in Cliffside scouting for talent for a new reality TV show for the popular Fire & Ice network. She says it is a down to earth reality show that is a mix of The Hills meets Secret Life of an American Teenager and she wants Charlie as her main star! After some soul searching, Charlie and her friends decide to sign on. However, with cameras following their every move and the whole “scripted reality” turning into more of “let’s take the whole thing out of context to create drama” the girls’ friendships start to crumble. Charlie’s new boyfriend doesn’t want to be on the show and she’s forced to get him to agree or get a “new” boyfriend. Hallie is portrayed as the slut she isn’t. Kieran—forced to constantly babysit her younger siblings—isn’t testing as exciting enough and is going to get cut while Brooke demands that she must be the star and becomes friends with rich girl Marleyna and starts an “us vs them” campaign. After the first episode airs and it’s nothing but fighting amongst the girls, Charlie realizes she’s not happy and doesn’t think the paycheck is worth the end of her friendships. Is there any way out for the girls? Can they salvage their friendship?

Critical Evaluation: This was a fun read. Girls who like humorous, fluffy fiction and friendship stories will enjoy this fast read. The most unfortunate thing about the story, however, was the rampant number of grammatical and spelling errors throughout that I think any teen will pick up on and be slightly distracted by. This being a fluff read, the girls are all mainly stereotyped—the smart one, the shy one, the boy crazy one, the bitchy one—but there was some depth added to the characters that isn’t usually seen in fluff books. This depth made them more interesting and will make readers care about them and want to find out what happens in the completely unrealistic plot. Everyone would want to be Charlie’s friend. A lot of teens could relate to Kieran and her huge (and very adult) responsibilities of taking care of her siblings. Brooke, while the key bitch of the story, is, at first, simply embarrassed of her family and tries to compensate for it by still maintaining the rich girl lifestyle. The thing I loved most about the book is the realistic way it presented reality shows behind the scenes. Readers learn about the concept of “scripted” reality and the girls spend time filming a scene and then having to redo the “reality” when something isn’t right (lighting, sound, etc.). I also like that the story is a core story about friendships and how sometimes they don’t last forever. Due to this, the story doesn’t end on a happily ever after note found in many fluff books—where all the girls realize their mistakes and go back to being the bestest friends they were at the beginning of the book. Brooke does move on and all the girls seem better for it.

Reader's Annotation: Charlie has been declared an All-American girl by the head scout for a new reality TV show that will be about her and her friends in real America—not the fake stuff like Jersey Shore or the Hills. Unfortunately, Charlie didn’t expect that the fame that comes with being a reality TV star includes not being able to date the boy she likes because he won’t sign a waiver to appear in the show, the fact that one of her friends doesn’t screen well and will probably get the ax, and that their so-called reality is all scripted.  

Author Information: A former Senior Entertainment Editor at Teen People, Calonita has interviewed everyone from Reese Witherspoon to Zac Efron. An entertainment journalist for the past ten years, she has written for TV Guide, Glamour and Marie Claire. Her work in the entertainment world inspired her first series, Secrets of My Hollywood Life. She has also published two stand-alone novels, Sleepaway Girls and Reality Check. She is currently working on her new teen series, Belles. Calonita resides in Merrick, New York, with her husband Mike, sons Tyler and Dylan, and their Chihuahua, Captain Jack Sparrow (Calonita, n.d.).

Genre: Humor

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Read the scene where Charlie and her friends re-do a “reality” scene or one of the catty interactions with former friend Brooke.  

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14+

Challenge Issues: N/A

Challenge Defense: N/A

Reason for Inclusion: An entertaining, humorous fluff novel.  


Calonita, J. (n.d.). Bio. Retrieved from

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