Are you ready?? It’s time for the Something Real blog tour. OMG, I just loved this book, you guys. If you haven’t read it, you need to. There is a giveaway at the end of the post for your opportunity to win a copy. But if you don’t win that, you HAVE to have it. We also have a brilliant and emotional guest post from the author, and I have a review for the book as well. I hope you enjoy!
Publisher’s Description: Winner of the 2012 PEN New England Discovery Award!
There’s nothing real about reality TV.
Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.
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Guest Post from Heather Demetrios:
I always knew that the first book I wrote would be dedicated to two people: whoever I was married to and David Menendian, my high school English teacher. The teacher. You know, the one who gives Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society a run for his money. And so the inscription in Something Real, my debut novel, reads:
For Menendian, who taught me how to write
And for Zach, who always believed I could
There is no teacher more deserving of this small gesture (and it is small, nothing really, compared to what he gave to me). I’ve had many wonderful teachers in my life, but Menendian came at just the right time and was so singular, so wholly unique, that no one stood out in quite the way he did. I had him for AP Comp and loved that class so much I decided not to do AP Lit my senior year in order to have Menendian a second time (he had a journalism class, as well). That AP Comp class was magic. Reading Fitzgerald and Solzhenitsyn and Hawthorne and Miller and the countless other works we dived into together was like having an expert guide in an ever-changing literary landscape. He was always telling us to look “under the surface,” to dig deeper and find the buried treasure hidden beneath the ink. His standards were sky high, our papers marked with careful consideration, incredulous notes in his voice, and—if you were lucky—a bit of praise.
I’d always excelled in English class; this is no surprise, considering I am now a writer. But Menendian was the first teacher who said I could be better, that what I was giving him was good…but not good enough. He created a classroom dynamic where he was the eccentric captain and we his loyal crew, each day an adventure. He fine-tuned our writing, asked hard questions, encouraged us to go a little further. I learned huge things from him, like the purpose of metaphor, what the American Dream was, and how to make critical writing read like fiction. I found my voice in his class and by the time I walked out his door and into the “real” world, I also had the confidence that my words could matter. Confidence, I might add, that he gave me.
My crowning achievement was not, as I’d hoped, a perfect score on the AP Comp test (just a four out of five for me), but a request from Menendian to have a copy of one of my papers for his collection. This was like winning a PEN award, a Pulitzer. This meant you wrote something he wanted to keep. It was a personal essay, about how my great-grandparents met on the battlefield during World War One, a story I would never have heard but for Menendian’s assignment. Not only did he gift me with the perfect family history for a hopeless romantic like me, he honored my ancestral detective work with the highest compliment he could pay.
If you read Something Real, you might suspect that Schwartz, Bonnie™’s government teacher, is Menendian in disguise. You’re right. In some ways, he’s very much Menendian (he only called us by our last names and encouraged college-level discussions). In other ways, he is Schwartz, his own person. This homage was a gift I wanted to give my protagonist who, like me, did not have the best home life. My teens were the hardest years of my life and to have a teacher who not only treated my mind like a carefully watered garden, but also created a safe haven from the craziness of adolescence is, to me, the mark of excellence in teaching teens. My drama teacher was the same: she’d open up the drama room at lunch so us arty weirdos could keep our happy bubble of existence where bursting out into song was the norm.
When I graduated, Menendian wrote me a four-page letter in lieu of signing my yearbook. I have kept it in a special place all these years, reading, from time to time, his encouraging words scrawled across lines of yellow paper. I won’t share them here—some things you keep just to yourself—but I will say that this is just one of many ways he expressed his generosity. Now, I’m married to a high school teacher and I can see so much of this selflessness in my husband, this willingness to be what his students need. I truly believe that the reason I am now a full-time author is, in large part, because of Menendian’s choice to go well above the call of duty. You can’t underestimate the power of having someone believe in you. Setting those high standards and then pushing me to meet them—and then telling me I had met them—is what gave me the confidence to think other people might care to read something I’d written.
My best-friend, who was in Menendian’s classes with me, recently had the opportunity to hand deliver my book to him during one of his AP Comp classes at our old high school (I live in Brooklyn and Menendian is in California). Menendian’s wife was in on the secret and had taken it upon herself to spread the word, so the event turned into an opportunity for the school to honor Menendian. There was cake. A speech from the man himself, applause. The community had used my simple little dedication as an opportunity to honor this teacher who has given so much to so many students. It was deeply touching to see not only the reaction of his current students, but also of former students who posted messages on Facebook about how much they loved him and remembered his class so fondly.
English teachers are the unsung heroes of our culture. They are the torchbearers, guiding young minds into the vast reaches of the literary universe, pointing out the stars. You won’t see many of their names on the cover of the books you read, but you can be certain they’re in there. You just have to look under the surface.
Author Bio: Heather Demetrios, originally from Los Angeles, now lives in Brooklyn and various imaginary locales. She is the recipient of a PEN New England Discovery Award for her debut YA novel about reality TV stardom, SOMETHING REAL (Macmillan/Henry Holt), and is the author of the upcoming EXQUISITE CAPTIVE, a smoldering fantasy about jinn in Los Angeles (#1 in the DARK CARAVAN fantasy trilogy from HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray), both out in 2014. She is currently working on her second novel for Macmillan, a love story about a young combat veteran and a girl trapped in their small town, both struggling to escape the war at home. When she’s not hanging out with her characters, Heather is working on her MFA in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
I just finished Something Real last night and I can’t stop thinking about it. Before I even start talking, I feel like I need to mention how surprised I was by this book. This is NOT a light and fluffy piece of fiction. The cover might look it, but it’s really dark. It’s unsettling, it’s depressing, and at times VERY difficult to read. There were times when this book literally made me sick. It’s not often that a book makes me sick to my stomach, but this one did. Topics like this are very hard to read for me because I get a bit claustrophobic at times. I hate feeling trapped, and there were many times where I did as a teenager so it takes me back to a time I would rather not reflect on. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy it though because I blew through this book in record time.
There are some interesting elements in this novel that aren’t usually present in other works of young adult fiction. For one, there is a really motivating relationship between Bonnie and her brother Benton. And I was actually surprised by the portrayal of her parents and stepfather. I don’t want to spoil anything so you are just going to have to wait and see. This book pushed some boundaries and I really LOVED that it did. Not only that, but there was a completely healthy relationship between two gay teenage boys and that was wonderful also.
As for the writing itself, I loved it! I loved the little snippets in between chapters of conversations, articles and different things to break up the monotony. I love the way the chapters were titled, but most of all, I loved Bonnie’s voice. I fell in love with her as a character and I related to her so much. Not because of her situation, but the way she DEALT with said situations. She is a normal, flawed teenage girl with a huge heart and a large personality. I’m an adult now but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember what I was like as a teen, and I do think that there is no other character I have had the pleasure of reading that comes as close to what I was like as Bonnie.
Also, everyone that knows me knows how much of a sucker I am for reality shows. My FAVORITE is Big Brother, and amusingly enough, there were quite a few references in here to the infamous show that I adore so much. The difference between that show and the one presented in this book though, is that the housemates CHOOSE to be observed 24/7. Bonnie had that choice made for her by a very fame greedy mother. There is only one question I would have liked answered that I never did get an answer for, and that was her family’s real reason for doing the show again. Was it finances like they said, or was it something else? Maybe I will just ask the author since she’s on the blog today. 😀
Thanks to the publisher, we a hardcover copy of the book to give away! This is US/CA only.
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