Published September 9, 2014 by Delacorte Press
eBook, 304 pages
Borrowed from library
When Miranda, Claire's older sister, finds out her boyfriend, Samir, has been cheating on her, she is in shock and pain. So to help Miranda cope with the breakup and make her feel better, Claire plots a way to get revenge on Samir: by joining the reality show Around the World that he has signed up for as well. When Claire & Miranda make it on the show, they're excited to travel to different countries and be with each other but more importantly, to kick Samir's butt, humiliating him on national TV and thus, getting him good for the things he did to Miranda. But things don't necessarily go to plan, as in there's a secret plot twist in store for Claire and Miranda when they join Around the World that they weren't expecting at all and it's one that ruins all their plans.
So my first thought? Not a fan. I was really expecting to love this book after I saw Veronika's review and found out that it was about SISTERS and TRAVELLING AROUND THE WORLD on a realtiy TV show that might as well be called The Amazing Race (also known as one of my television obsessions). It had all the elements I already loved and I was so prepared to be gushing about it in this review but it just didn't happen for me. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what didn't do it for me as it was more a combination of things.
I had trouble engaging with Claire's voice/character.
I could never totally relate to Claire throughout the entire book. Sure, I could see how it might be frustrating to always be in an older sister's shadow as I have felt that way. Though I don't have an older sister, I do have some experience with feeling like you're not as good as one of your friends and wanting to present yourself as perfectly as possible to compete with that. I get that and I also get being in way over your head when you meet a guy for the first time that seems like he has an interest in you. I get feeling like OH MY GOD, we're meant to be and just ignoring the rest of it. I get ALL of that and yet I had trouble with Claire's character. I think I maybe only managed to understand her character on a very basic level because for most of the book, I was SO annoyed by her and so frustrated. It just seemed Claire wasn't as fleshed out as she could have been. Her struggles and issues were there but I feel like they weren't dealt with or expanded on with great detail or feeling? Which made me not interested in her narration at all. Furthermore, I found Claire to also be incredibly judgmental and obnoxious about other people. My memory's a little fuzzy but there were a few scenes that stick out to me when Claire just makes opinions of other people based on their appearance and "classic" stereotypes. Like when she meets Troy, one of the other racers who's also a male stripper, and immediately waves him off. I guess it could be understandable why one person would perhaps degrade a stripper due to the perception we have of them in our society but as someone who makes a very pointed effort to not judge anyone based on first appearances or very little knowledge, I just found this particular trait of Claire's to be a little grating. Although this does get cleared up towards the end of the book where we find out not everyone is who they present themselves so I don't think it's fair to really pick at that too much.
I had trouble with the other characters as well.
I honestly do not think there is one character in this book I liked. They were all so annoying. Miranda, Claire's sister, is really a very horrible sister (more on this later). Samir is cocky and disdainful. Don't even get me started on Will, Claire's love interest, which I thought just added a LOT of drama to this book that I wasn't really in the mood for but the ending, in terms of their relationship, was perfect. Really, the only person I even slightly liked was Troy for telling Claire off for her preconceived notions of him. Like YES, THANK YOU.
Miranda and Claire's relationship didn't seem to change much.
So again, I read this a while ago so things are a little muddy for me but I do remember the feeling of being incredibly dissatisfied at the end because I didn't feel like Miranda & Claire's relationship really improved. They made up at the end but honestly, I didn't see anything that convinced me Miranda was going to stop being a patronizing and condescending older sister. Throughout For Real, this relationship is built upon a lot. We see from Claire's point of view how Miranda is the perfect sister and great at all the things she isn't good at. How Miranda sees Claire as incapable and therefore, patronizes her and condescends her. And truly, she was horrible. But then they made up and yay that was it? I wasn't really convinced at all.
I didn't get as much travel as I expected and I was overall just disappointed by how the reality show was presented.
Let's not jump around anything here: Around the World, the reality show in this book, is The Amazing Race. I love reality shows especially The Amazing Race so it was pretty interesting at points to get an insider's look at how the show is filmed as I know Alison Cherry did quite a bit of research into that (based on the acknowledgements). Like the process of choosing contestants was very interesting for me and the fact that sometimes it's kinda fabricated a bit for television. I remember this one scene at the starting line when the cameramen called Claire and her partner back to the starting line to refilm their running off which was very intriguing for me. So I liked that aspect but as for the presentation of the actual reality show, not a fan. Like I mentioned in the premise section above, there is a twist to the reality show they're on so it's not exactly like The Amazing Race. And while I thought that twist sounded pretty cool at first, as the story wore on, I just wasn't a fan any more. The challenges probably could have totally fit if Around the World were an actual TV show but for some reason, on paper, it just seemed all rather silly and juvenile to me. And for a book about a reality show that takes contestants around the world, there wasn't quite as much description of the countries as I expected. Which I don't mean to word in a way that it sounds like I think the book is worse off for that because certainly that shouldn't be something obligatory but just putting it out there that that was another reason why the book wasn't for me. When I hear a book has talk of globe trotting, I really want the author to bring that to life and make me feel like I'm right there with the characters too and I didn't feel that here.
The bottom line? For Real just wasn't for me. It had all the promise of being a book for me, what with the sister relationship, the travelling, the Amazing Race aspect, but in the end, it was a flop. I found myself disinterested in Claire and her story for most of the book and all in all, For Real just failed to impress me with its execution.
Fans of The Amazing Race. And I don't know why I keep on thinking this because it makes no sense but somehow my mind is hung up on the fact that readers who liked Beauty Queens by Libba Bray might really enjoy this one too.
Veronika @ Reading is Dreaming with Open Eyes gives it 4 stars: "For Real is an emotional but quite funny read about two sisters who couldn't be more different if they tried."