You Look Different in Real Life

355p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-198581-2. LC 2012051743.
Gr 8 Up—Ten years ago, five kindergarteners and their ordinary lives were the subject of a documentary. Five years later, they were featured in a second documentary. Now they're 16 and it's time to once again be in front of the camera. Many changes have occurred since the last time they were filmed: Rory's been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder; former best friends Nate, who has reinvented himself as a cool jock, and Felix no longer speak; Keira, whose worst memory was caught on film, is a member of the popular group; and Justine, the break-out "star" of the two earlier films, feels that she's no longer interesting and hasn't accomplished all she had hoped to. The producers struggle to find usable footage and resort to staging some scenes, which in previous years was unnecessary. A team-building weekend ensues, which Keira uses to further her own agenda. While the book starts off slow and a bit tedious, it becomes much more interesting and exciting around the time of the bonding weekend. This novel is an interesting look at difficult subjects, such as autism, homosexuality, and friendship. A perfect fit for fans of Siobhan Vivian, Deb Caletti, and Sara Zarr.—Melissa Stock, Arapahoe Library District, Englewood, CO
At age six, Justine, Rory, Felix, Keira, and Nate were introduced to the world in the hit documentary Five at Six, a child-development case study of kids in small-town New York that could be Anywhere, U.S.A. The follow-up film caught up with them at age eleven; now, five years later, they're poised to start shooting Five at Sixteen. The filming starts out awkwardly, as much has changed since Eleven. Sympathetic and engaging narrator Justine especially struggles with her identity after being the star of the previous installments and the group's de facto leader. Then the teens go on the lam -- camera in tow -- to support one castmate on a personal quest. It's on this trip, sans adult directors, that the friends re-forge their bonds and begin to understand themselves. With its implicit commentary on today's reality-show culture, this provocative novel explores what makes observing strangers fumbling through life so addictively entertaining -- and so eye-opening, too. katrina hedeen

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