by Jennifer Castle


Justine used to be the sassy breakout star of the "Five At..." documentaries, but at 16 and with the next installment due to be filmed, she feels she's failed to live up to everyone's expectations of her, including her own. She has no boyfriend, no ambition, and she doesn't really even have any hobbies unless you count her love of losing herself at the movies. Meanwhile, her costars all seem like they're headed somewhere interesting and fulfilling with stories worth telling. As Justine learns, however, real life is rarely as simple as it looks from the outside and assumptions based on appearances are often dead wrong.

Jennifer Castle's You Look Different in Real Life takes the reality show genre and combines it with that teen classic, the coming of age story about friendship and becoming yourself, but it does it in such an honest and self-reflective way that I found it difficult to stop reading. I'm a sucker for character-driven breakdowns of cultural ideas and norms, so while it was at times easy to see where things were going, I wanted to see how Castle would get us there. My biggest complaint is that it ended before I was ready.

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