You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

You Look Different in Real Life

For the rest of the world, the movies are entertainment. For Justine, they’re real life.

The premise was simple: five kids, just living their lives. There’d be a new movie about them every five years, starting in kindergarten. But no one could have predicted what the cameras would capture. And no one could have predicted that Justine would be the star.

Now sixteen, Justine doesn’t feel like a star anymore. In fact, when she hears the crew has gotten the green light to film Five at Sixteen, all she feels is dread. The kids who shared the same table in kindergarten have become teenagers who hardly know one another. And Justine, who was so funny and edgy in the first two movies, feels like a disappointment.

But these teens have a bond that goes deeper than what’s on film. They’ve all shared the painful details of their lives with countless viewers. They all know how it feels to have fans as well as friends. So when this latest movie gives them the chance to reunite, Justine and her costars are going to take it. Because sometimes, the only way to see yourself is through someone else’s eyes.

Smart, fresh, and frequently funny, You Look Different in Real Life is a piercing novel about life in an age where the lines between what’s personal and what’s public aren’t always clear.

Source: through Edelweiss by HarperTeen for review purposes


Justine is the breakout star of a couple of documentaries that she and four of her kindergarten classmates starred in when they were 6 and again at age 11.  When the producers come around again in anticipation of the newest movie, 5 at Sixteen, she doesn’t think she wants to be a part of it.  The problem is that Justine doesn’t feel like she’s fulfilled her potential that was promised by the first movies and she thinks she’ll be a letdown for the fans of the series. Justine no longer feels like the spunky girl with the quick and smart comeback, she just feels like another average girl trying to find her place.

Felix is pretty much Justine’s best friend.  He’s another kid from the documentaries and the son of immigrants who work at a nearby farm.  Felix has been trying to make a name for himself in the industry by blogging and through his edgy and offbeat music. Felix has had a falling out with Nate, whose family owns the farm Felix’s parents work at and who used to be Felix’s best friend.

Nate, the only other boy in the documentary, is the son of a single mother and was a sensitive child fond of animals, which made him the target of bullies.  He’s since shed that image and become one of the most popular kids at school and a star swimmer.  He also has a mysterious connection to Keira, though it may just be the solidarity of popularity that binds them.  Justine has a reluctant attraction to him, but she thinks he and Keira look down on her because she’s not popular like they are.

Keira is the biracial daughter of a professor and she has become beautiful and nearly untouchable.   Justine finds it hard to interact with her on any meaningful level. Keira is pretty much an enigma to Justine and she wants to connect to her but thinks she’ll be shot down.

The final documentary subject is Rory, Justine’s childhood best friend. Rory’s always been a little odd but it’s become obvious to Justine and others that Rory may be Autistic, though she’s no longer part of Rory’s life. Justine feels she needs to atone for the way she treated Rory during and after the last movie.  Rory’s blunt and uncommon personality can be a bit jarring, but she’s a sweet kid and Justine wants her forgiveness, if not her friendship.


The kids are no longer close like they used to be and they don’t really travel in the same circles, so finding a story for the documentary becomes difficult for the producers.  In answer to this, they find they need to manufacture circumstances. On top of that, their age makes for an interesting challenge. Teenagers are notoriously hard to manage, especially considering that more than one of them has their own agenda and reasons for agreeing to do the film.

Overall Thoughts:

What a timely concept.  It’s difficult to understand the unique set of issues that come with everyone knowing who you are and having opinions about your life.  Justine doesn’t go in for the whole fame thing and she’s torn about meeting expectations and forging her own path.  The problem is that she doesn’t know who she wants to be, which I know is not a new problem for teenagers.  I loved that Justine was both repellent and drawn to being in the movie. Little things like her setting up a shot in her head lend to my thinking that she doth protest too much. For a book about our modern society, it shines a light on the implied intimacy we have with public figures, particularly for those in reality-based entertainment.  Justine & her friends are unique in this because 1) they were so young when it all began & 2) they, until now, didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter. All of them were hiding something (with the exception of Rory, who I don’t think is even capable of hiding anything), which is understandable when you have a spotlight on you and you aren’t sure who you can trust. Is this person my friend because I’m in a movie? Does he/she want camera time?  For those reviewers/readers who didn’t like Justine, I ask, why are you reading teen lit if you don’t like characters who sometimes have a bad attitude? Justine seemed a little hard to take at times, but I understood her and I felt for her. Also, I’ve been a teenager and I remember using cynicism as a bandaid against the world.  She’s her own worse critic, though, and wants to make ammends, but finds it hard to admit to her own failures. Bottom line: Growing up is hard, y’all, and it’s even harder when the world is watching you.  I really liked this book. In fact, it was much better than I was expecting, given the subject matter (I’m not really a fan of reality TV that isn’t competition based). The relationships are honest and rewarding, and there are real issues and growth for our characters. I wanted to keep reading to find out what their secrets were and find out if they would be okay in the end.  Did it change the world? No, but hopefully it helps us to understand and remember that everyone has their own battles and insecurities and we have to find a way to overcome them in order to be the best person we can be. Geez, does that sound trite? Sorry. 🙂



6 thoughts on “You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

  1. C June 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm Reply

    I had a hard time getting through this one. I loved the concept but I didn’t feel there was enough time/space to really get to know any of the five well enough to feel invested in them.

    • Daphne June 4, 2013 at 12:32 pm Reply

      that’s why I’m glad at least one of them was the narrator, because I did feel connected to Justine, but you’re right about not knowing the others enough. I would have loved to dissect Keira.

  2. Alice in Readerland June 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm Reply

    So glad you really liked this one, I’m excited to read it! All the different characters sound really interesting! 🙂 Great review!

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

  3. bookgoonie June 5, 2013 at 6:22 am Reply

    Im glad the author was able to pull off the complexities of today’s reality culture. Look forward to picking this one up.

  4. Tadi June 5, 2013 at 9:03 am Reply

    Lovely blog! Please follow mine, it’s new:

  5. Candice @ The Grown-Up YA June 5, 2013 at 9:20 am Reply

    I mainly skimmed this one… haven’t gotten to it yet! But I do love the concept, especially with all the reality shows going on!

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