You Look Different In Real Life by Jennifer Castle | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

You Look Different In Real Life by Jennifer Castle | Book ReviewYou Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle
Also by this author: When We Had Summer
Published by HarperCollins on 2013-06-04
Genres: Family, Performing Arts, Social Issues, Television & Radio, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

Readers of John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Laurie Halse Anderson will be touched by the emotional depth and realistic characters of Jennifer Castle's teen novel You Look Different in Real Life.Justine charmed the nation in a documentary film featuring five kindergartners. Five years later, her edgy sense of humor made her the star of a second movie that caught up with the lives of the same five kids. Now Justine is sixteen, and another sequel is in the works. Justine isn't ready to have viewers examining her life again. She feels like a disappointment, not at all like the girl everyone fell in love with in the first two movies. But, ready or not, she and the other four teens will soon be in front of the cameras again.Smart, fresh, and funny, You Look Different in Real Life is an affecting novel about life in an age where the lines between what's personal and what's public aren't always clear.

Confession: I love reality TV, but only the really trashy kind like the shows on VH1 and Jersey Shore. When I first heard about You Look Different In Real Life by Jennifer Castle, I somehow assumed it was about teenagers on a reality TV show. I was actually wrong. However, for once, I really enjoyed the book even though the book was not what I had expected. I’ve actually met Castle in real life, at a young adult signing at Oblong Books and she was perfectly lovely and another YA fan there and I just want you all to know that does not color my perception of the book. I actually LOVED You Look Different In Real Life on it’s own merits. To me, this contemporary book about a girl who isn’t quite sure of her place was just what the doctor ordered.

You Look Different In Real Life is about five teenagers who were in two documentaries and have signed on to be in a series of 4 documentaries, all spaced four years apart. The first documentary is called Five At Six and it’s about the group sitting at the same table in primary school. The next takes place five years later and is called Five At Eleven. When the book opens, Justine, the girl who was all spice and the focus of the documentary has finally managed to blend in and lead a normal life at school when she finds out that filmmakers Leslie and Lance are back in town and want to shoot Five At Sixteen. Justine is dreading this because she is not the spicy girl she was at eleven or at six. She’s had fallings out with the other members of the five group, all except for Felix. FYI, the main characters of this book are: Felix, a first generation American, Kiera a brilliant girl who has had her heart ripped out by a family member, Rory, a girl on the autism spectrum, and Nate, a bullied kid who is now a popular jock. Despite her reluctance, Justine agrees to do the film and so the five teenagers reunite and share this common bond and well, there’s a lot of pain and drama there, but also a lot of healing. This book sounds like it would be all surface because of the fame thing, but it runs deep.

You know how you can read a character and not be able to stand them at different moments because they feel so real and hurtful? Those were my feelings about Justine, the main, narrating character. She has some hang-ups that I can understand. She’s not totally confident in herself at sixteen, at least not as much as she was at eleven or six. She’s not sure she will be able to provide enough interest to the video. She also did some horrible things to Rory and the way she thinks about Rory can be really grating, if not real. Yet, what I loved is that Justine is a character that develops and changes and grows. She’s a character who is not perfect and we all know it. She has some very real flaws. Yet, she is someone you come to care about despite wanting to be like, NOOOOO stop that. She actually does remind me of a Dessen heroine, in that there’s interesting things about her, but she seems like the average girl you could see yourself hanging out with. She’s very normal, in her character and the feelings you get from her and the impression she makes, I guess.

Jennifer Castle’s sophomore book has romance, much like Sarah Dessen, only it does not come until the very end and is kind of unexpected, but actually well developed. I liked the trajectory of the romance and am glad it is not the focal point of the book. So, I guess if you want something where the swoons are not front and center, but character development is, I think you’ll love You Look Different In Real Life. The romance though, feels totally right when it happens and just so logical. I can’t help but be glad for the way it played out.

You Look Different In Real Life is a young adult book that totally has depth. It’s a quick read with an interesting exploration of relationships of the non-romantic sort. It’s about bonds and how those change over time and also about how there’s always the chance for redemption. Maybe there is not redemption in the grand dramatic sense, but there is certainly a chance for wrongs to be righted, which is something I am into. There’s also some fabulous character development and I have to say that I loved all of the character arcs in this story, not just Justine’s. Jennifer Castle’s book is one of those under the radar reads that I cannot believe I did not pick up sooner. It’s just the thing for when you need a dose of contemporary in your life.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. We had a series of documentaries here that had a similar theme, I can’t remember the name, but it caught up with a group of people at certain ages. So, this appeals to me for that reason, I can totally believe teens would have issues with putting their life out there for people to see, especially when they regret previous behaviour.

    Thanks for making me aware of this one, I don’t think it’s received much attention yet

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist

  2. Sounds like a good read, the premise sounds interesting!

  3. The idea for this book must have come from the set of documentaries by Michael Apted that began with the film 7 Up in 1964. He’s revisited the set of children every seven years and the most recent installment was 56 Up in 2012. It’s a fascinating set of films and this sounds like a very astute fictional adaptation.

  4. I’ve owned two different copies of this book and ended up giving them both away before I could read them, but I think I’m going to have to give it a third try because it sounds soooooo good. I don’t really like reality tv (except Dance Moms. I’m ADDICTED to that show), but I love books that take a look at the other side. The relationship dynamics between the different characters sound really interesting, and I love getting to see a character grow and change throughout the story.

  5. I feel like I’ve seriously been meaning to read You Look Different in Real Life for forever, but haven’t gotten around to it. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! It sounds like one of those contemporaries that I could easily fall for, with flawed + real main characters and an interesting plot too.

  6. I heard so much about this book while I was on my break from blogging. I am really glad to see how much you enjoyed it. Your review really has me wanting to read it now. Got to love those books that turn out to be something completely different than what you were expecting, and then you end up really loving them.