Bonnie™ Baker has been on television for almost all of her life. She was even born on camera. The first thirteen years of her life, or seasons as she thinks of them, she was one of the stars of Baker’s Dozen, a reality TV show about her family. The hook of the show is that the Bakers have thirteen children in the family, of which Bonnie is the only one her mother actually gave birth to. Two, Benton™ and Lexie™ were delivered by surrogates, and are just about the same age. The rest were adopted, from the US and foreign countries. Following her parents’ divorce, the reality show ended and Bonnie is finally beginning to live some semblance of a normal life four years later. But then her mother and step-father, Kirk, announce a new show: Baker’s Dozen: Fresh Batch.
Something Real focuses on what an unhealthy environment the reality show is to grow up in. You may have noticed the ™ symbol following the character names. Bonnie™ doesn’t feel like a person anymore; she feels like a product. When she was younger, the cameras were just a fact of life, but now, after the brief bit of freedom, the Metareel film crew and rules are even more stifling.
YA parents are often absolutely horrid, but the Benton parents get a place in the special hell with child molesters and people who talk at the movies. Beth™ especially is so obviously manipulating her children for a chance at fame. When she first started out, it was about the children, but now everything she does is so planned. She’s acting the mom and not being one. She feigns concern so that she can fulfill the role that she’s playing and sell books, but she doesn’t seem to actually care about her children. It seems that the older siblings do more to raise the young ones, even. Beth™ completely ignores the fact that Bonnie™ is falling apart, and instead blames her daughter for everything.
Bonnie™ has a really nice character arc. She starts out so unaware of who she is, going by Chloe in school and trying to escape everything about Bonnie™. Her default setting is to run away from her problems, to avoid them. As time passes, she learns that she needs to make a change before her life is entirely ruined. She gets less passive and goes on a journey to find herself without the whole Bonnie™ Baker thing weighing her down.
My favorite character, though, is Benton™, her brother. They have just the best sibling dynamic. They’re truly friends, and they watch out for each other. This is probably the best brother/sister relationship I’ve seen in YA. I also like the way their relationships with their sister Lexie™ evolve throughout the book.
Benton™ also happens to be gay and to have a boyfriend, Matt, who’s a football player. If you do not think they are the cutest thing, I honestly can’t even with you. They have such a healthy relationship and I loved every single thing about them, especially that neither one of them was stereotypical in any way. I LOVED EVERY SINGLE THING. Okay, I didn’t like that Benny smoked, but acting out and all that; both Bonnie™ and Matt gave him hell for it.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Bonnie™ also has a romance, and it IS cute, but it’s also the one thing I didn’t like about the book. It’s TOO cute. Patrick and Bonnie™ have a great connection, and I was really on board at first. However, aside from being a bit grungy, Patrick is PERFECT. He is a hundred percent supportive of Bonnie™ at all times. He has apparently been into her from the very first moment they met. He was the only other person trusted with Benny and Matt’s secret love. He had told his parents all about Bonnie™ before they were dating, like some kid on a 50s sitcom. He’s not bothered by the tabloid coverage of their relationship. Every choice he makes throughout the book puts Bonnie™ first. They’re so healthy as to be entirely unbelievable. I will say that Demetrios manages mostly to keep them from being saccharine, but I still was rolling my eyes by the end, especially one scene towards the end.
I also felt like the ending was just generally a bit too idealized. After all of that trouble and serious stuff that Bonnie™ was going through, it seems to have been resolved very easily. Nothing’s really said about what happened to a particular plot point, but I can't get into that without spoilers.
The Final Verdict:
Heather Demetrios’ Something Real is a fabulous debut novel, and I will most definitely be reading whatever this woman writes. This is a must read for contemporary readers looking for reality television, family dynamics or LGBT themes.