Review: You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

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Rating: *** / 3 out of 5
Genres: Young Adult, Drama, Contemporary
Expected Publication: June 4, 2013 by Harper Teen
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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.

Smart, fresh, and frequently funny, You Look Different in Real Life is a piercing novel about life in an age where the lines between what’s personal and what’s public aren’t always clear.


An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. No money or any form of transaction was exchanged.

You Look Different in Real Life is the prime example why I do not want to partake in the activities of Facebook anymore, where people post everything about their lives, including the mundane and who-cares stuff, for the entire world to see and scrutinize and for people comme moi to ridicule (just kidding). I do not condone activities where the private and vulnerable moments of people are made public, so when I read this book’s synopsis, I truthfully winced.

But like any other bookish individual out there, I’m a sucker for good stories, especially the ones where there are a lot of character development and values to learn from. So, I decided to let myself loose and enjoy the ride for what it was.

And overall, I found the book pretty decent. We’re introduced to 5 individuals who’ve known each other since they were six, as they were the main cast of this documentary where their lives were followed by cameras (which, also, became the most talked about documentary, like, evah). This little project is actually a 4-part project where every 5 years this cast of characters would be featured on film. First when they are six, then when they are eleven, sixteen and ultimately twenty one. They’re all teenagers now, at the prime and sweet youth of sixteen and a third movie is in the works, however, it will ultimately prove to be a rocky road as things have changed and the five are not as close anymore. Why and what happened?

The Good Stuff

The side characters. I think they were the most interesting and strongest factor of this novel. There are five, right? Justine, Felix, Nate, Keira, and Rory (Justine is the main character and we see the story unfold in her perspective). All of them are flawed and struggling individuals, having something that happened in their lives that contributed to the rather broken selves they are now. They’re all different from one another and amazing in their own way. I loved how I got to know each and every one of them in Justine’s eyes, and the metamorphosis they all went through. It’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time as they tried to find closures for their present and past selves that were seen and watched on film. Wonderful characterization!

The romance at the end. I really liked how the book wasn’t centered on romance at all, as in, I actually thought there wouldn’t be any of it in the first 95% of the book. LOL! Then it appeared at the end, but interestingly enough, it neither irked me nor felt random; in fact, it felt right and in place given the journey and realizations the characters went through in the majority of the book. It made my heart do a bit of backflips, to be honest. It was such a tease, though, because there were only so little of it! :<

I thought the narration was pretty well-done. It’s not a plot-driven story, so if you’re looking for a fast-paced drama here and a slap with accompanying “HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO ME” dialogue there, nope, you won’t find it. It’s very “showing”, in which, we are given a clear and bright view of the main character’s psyche as well as her opinion and background of the other four. I think it was overall excellent as it did its job of making me engrossed in the story, and honestly, the author’s prose was delightful and musical to read, so, props to that.

The Bad Stuff

Despite having an excellent narration, I disliked the narrator, Justine. Holy crap, not only was she fickle as hell, it also seemed she didn’t have any sense of privacy majority of the time. At first, she didn’t want to do the movie at all because of, I don’t know, issues, and then in the next chapter she wanted to take back her words because she apparently, she wnated to piss them off or something by coming up with an entirely different appearance. Hum. ¬_¬There were also a lot of vulnerable moments with regards to the other characters, and there were times Justine would simply take out the camera and record it without asking for permission, knowing full well this moment would be caught on film and edited for the viewing pleasure of the whole world. It didn’t help that in the first part of the book, she was complaining of how the producers and directors or whoever took advantage of Keira’s private moment when she was at her weakest in the first film, and then here she goes, doing the fricking. Same. Thing. What a hypocrite! There were times she felt so insensitive, too. Other characters opened up their sob stories and you know what she said? “Hey, put that on the film! It would make a great inspiration story!” I call bullshit.

The ending chapter felt… how do I say this? In tagalog, we would say, “bitin”. I honestly don’t know how to expound on that. LOL. It’s like it ends, but you feel something is missing and it could have been much more, but it’s not exactly “rushed”. I think I was supposed to get on to something here, but I don’t know what.

So far, it was an interesting read. Not perfect, but not bad, either, and I think I’d recommend it for those who want to read something touching with a lot of character development. It’s quite slow, but the slowness fits. Final verdict: 3.5 stars

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A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena


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  1. says

    Damn, that comment was for Reboot! About this one I was gonna say that it reminded me of that movie with Jim Carrey, The Truman Show.

    • FayeFaye says

      Truman Show? What was that about? And also, a lot of other people gave Reboot 4-5, a lot of them respected bloggers… but… you know.. :(