Today we're excited to spotlight Reality Gold by Tiffany Brooks! Read on for more about Tiffany and her book, plus an interview, excerpt, & giveaway!
Meet Tiffany Brooks!
High school senior Riley Ozaki is desperate to change her reality after an avalanche of Internet shaming ruined her life. With her reputation and self-esteem at rock bottom thanks to cyberbullying, Riley needs to do something drastic to repair her social standing—which is why she decided to try out for a reality TV show. Suddenly, she’s dropping onto a deserted tropical island with nineteen other teens for a Survivor-style competition that she hopes will be her redemption.
With a cast of vivid characters who will stop at nothing to win the show, a cursed island setting, and a priceless treasure waiting to be discovered, Reality Gold pitches readers right into scheming web of lies, love, and betrayal. This novel is a fast-paced journey where allies may not be who they say they are, and legends abound. Riley must embrace all of life’s realities, including loss and deceit, in order to discover who she truly is.
I’ve got my own version of Murphy’s Law, and it goes like this: if there’s something that will make a bad situation even worse, I’ll do it. My ex-friends called it “Riley’s Law,” and it’s the best explanation for why I was now crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with nineteen other teens on one of those ominous-looking military-style helicopters that always show up in disaster movies when the worst stuff is about to go down.
Why—why—had I thought doing a reality show was the answer to all my problems? Would I ever learn to leave things alone?
My back bounced against the cold metal wall. All the players were wiggling and vibrating against one another like a batch of lottery balls about to be released. I scanned the opposite row of my new rivals’ faces, yet not a single other person looked scared, sick, or even mildly nervous.
Keep it together, Riley.
Somehow, a stupid mistake from eight months ago had snowballed into this: me, hurtling toward a deserted island off the coast of Brazil, about to compete in a nationally televised reality show. Back in October—a lifetime ago—my friend Izzy and I did something dumb. I got suspended. Izzy got expelled. My sentence was lighter because my role was trivial, but my progressive San Francisco classmates—always on alert for signs of inequality—decided the school had gotten it wrong and our misdeeds were identical. The only reason I was still around, they argued, was because my parents were big donors to our school and Izzy had been ousted because she was a scholarship kid. There was a petition submitted to the headmaster, demanding my expulsion. The school declined, and the only wreckage would have been my own hurt feelings if I’d left everything alone.
But because of Riley’s Law, I didn’t. I couldn’t.
Instead, I decided I had to defend myself in an op-ed on the school website. The essay was well-written and impeccably argued. No one noticed any of that, though, because within hours the San Francisco Chronicle had picked the article up and decimated it. Decimated me. There’s a whole gentrification thing going on in the city right now, and my words were twisted and held up as proof of the spoiled mentality of the Bay Area’s 1 percent. Their warped interpretation: Wealthy private school student demands special treatment.
That was definitely not what I’d said, but it didn’t stop people in all corners of the Internet from flooding my Facebook page and raiding my Instagram, suggesting I go kill myself—but before I did, I should get surgery to move my eyes closer together, start a diet to fix my fat face, and grow some boobs.
It was bad enough when it felt like my friends and classmates hated me, but suddenly the whole world was screaming about how worthless I was.
Some creative snake even managed to download some photos of me before I made everything private. He slapped some Marie Antoinette-style comments on them and they went viral. Birthed by the Internet and tended to by trolls, this warped version of myself showed up everywhere. The meme of the girl in the red velvet party dress, holding her white-gloved hands out in disgust, under the caption You bought that on sale? I can’t even! That was me when I was ten, taken at my middle school’s annual holiday dance. It had been a really fun night; the dress was a gift, and when I twirled, the skirt puffed up like a bell. I felt like a princess. That sour expression had probably only flashed across my face for a second or two, and it was nothing more than an exaggerated reaction to the DJ playing Oops I Did It Again, which I secretly loved.
Now when I hear that song or think of that night, I want to die.
The helicopter suddenly banked right, hitting a rough patch of air. Across from me, two girls wearing tiny shorts with hair longer than their crop tops clutched each other and screamed. The one with the deep red hair looked familiar but I couldn’t think of how, which was driving me crazy because I usually remembered things like that.
They were so casually entwined, as if they were best friends already. Once, that might have been me. If I’d been doing this show a year ago, I probably would have been right there next to them, commiserating over the awkwardness of it all, asking the girl with the red hair where she was from and complimenting the blond girl’s gold clover necklace.
But now my instinct was to hold back. Becoming the butt of a national joke left me unsure of who I could trust. After the bad publicity prompted the headmaster to start making noise about how it “might be better for everyone” if I enrolled somewhere else, I withdrew and hid in my room while being home-schooled for the remainder of the year. At least, that’s what my mother called the rotation of counselors and tutors who cycled through our house. My father didn’t call it anything. By then he had basically washed his hands of me.
And now September was coming in three short months, bringing with it a new school for my senior year and a chance for a fresh start. I wanted my future classmates to know something about me besides that garbage online, but countering a rumor is nearly impossible. As my tutor liked to say: a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on. But then I heard about this show. It was the perfect solution. Me, on television every week—the real me, looking friendly and nice and normal and nothing at all like an evil narcissist who bathes in champagne and the tears of poor people.
For that tactic to succeed, though, I had to put myself out there. Be friendly. The girl sitting on my left seemed like an easy person to start with; she’d been chattering away non-stop with nearly everyone else already. But when I leaned toward her to say something, we hit more turbulence and my forehead smacked squarely into hers.
“Hey!” she pulled back, pressing her fingers into the bridge of her nose. The exclamation was hardly fair. I obviously hadn’t done it on purpose.
Nevertheless, I apologized. “Sorry,” I said sheepishly, internally cursing myself for the false start. Doing this show badly would be worse than not doing it at all.
“Hang in there,” Deb, the producer, shouted. She was tiny, but she had a big presence with her loud voice and a wild flash of dark, curly hair. “The wind currents always get unpredictable near the island, but it won’t be too much longer in the air. You guys ready?”
There were a lot of nods, some more enthusiastic than others.
“Are you guys dead or what? A little spirit, please. I’ll ask again: You guys ready?”
This time there were shouts and cheers. A guy in bright red Bermuda shorts near the back door put his fingers in his mouth to whistle, although the wind rush inside the helicopter was so loud I couldn’t hear it from that far away. He had short dirty-blonde hair, looked very preppy, was named Parker or Porter—one of those first name/last name kind of names. Cute. We’d met at the airport when we’d both arrived at the door at the same time and had a couple of rounds of polite-but-awkward “You first,” “No, you.” Too bad I’d watched him later trying to catch the eye of the pair of new best friends huddled across from me.
“Much better,” Deb said. “Now listen up, because I’ve got a surprise.”
Oh no. I’d binge-watched enough reality shows in the last few months to know that last- minute bombshells never brought good news. Even more worrisome was how the film crew had suddenly jumped into action, swinging cameras onto their shoulders and scattering among the players to take up their filming positions.
One of them knelt in front of me, so close I could see dark patches of stubble along his cheeks and a few loose threads unraveling from the neck of his black T-shirt. If I could see him in so much detail, his lens must be capturing my every pore.
I swallowed nervously. I had definitely underestimated how unnerving it was to feel this level of scrutiny again.
For a second the aperture in the center of the lens opened up and a reflection of my face flashed in the glass. I didn’t see any features, just fear.
There’s a game I play when my anxiety starts to kick in. Since it was a suggestion from my therapist, I resisted at first, but now I use it all the time. It takes up excess mental energy and forces me to be in the moment. It also feels way more productive than plain old deep breathing. Here it is: describe something in opposing ways and then figure out which description is correct.
My participation in this show: ballsy attempt to rehab my reputation or a ginormous mistake that would lead to round two as the Internet’s favorite punching bag?
Me: misunderstood girl, or spoiled Internet brat? I’d find out soon enough.
A Chat with Tiffany Brooks:
Who is your favorite character in the book?
Whenever I write, its as if my characters end up as horcruxes that each have a little piece of me, so its hard to pick a favorite. I would say Riley is the most like me, so I identified the most with her, but there are so many things about Maren that are like me, but just aren’t on display as much, so secretly I think I like her the best. She’s very snappy and direct, which was fun to write.
By: Tiffany Brooks
Release Date: May 22, 2018
One winner will receive a copy of Reality Gold, plus a $25 Amazon gift card (US only).