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You Look Different in Real Life

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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.

355 pages, Hardcover

First published June 4, 2013

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About the author

Jennifer Castle

41 books403 followers
Jennifer Castle received her B.A. in Creative Writing at Brown University and worked as a celebrity publicist’s assistant, an advertising copywriter, and a struggling screenwriter (yes, that’s an actual job) before falling into a niche producing websites for kids and teens. Her debut, THE BEGINNING OF AFTER, was a 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection as well as a Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" book. YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE was a 2015 Florida Teens Read selection. Her most recent novel, WHAT HAPPENS NOW, was published in June 2016. She lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband and daughters.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 346 reviews
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,760 followers
February 26, 2019
Really interesting premise of documentaries following a group of kids every 5 years to show them growing up. I enjoyed the theme of these characters having grown apart over the years, and reconnecting during the book. But I don't think the way the plot was laid out did very much for the documentary premise.

The characters were diverse - white, Latinx, Black/biracial, gay, disabled. I wasn't sure how I felt about the portrayal of autism, so I'll refer you to this great review by Disability in Kidlit.

Audiobook review: Narration was average or above average. Would recommend.
Profile Image for Jasprit.
527 reviews748 followers
June 12, 2013
4. 5 stars

You Look Different in Real Life was just such a fresh read. With all these reality shows around following celebrities around 24/7, you would expect You Look Different in Real Life to follow a similar sort of route, well I certainly did. But no You Look Different in Real Life ended up being such a brilliant nostalgic read.

I remember when I was studying Sociology at college and watching a similar sort of documentary where it followed the lives of a class from a young age and checked back with them to see how their lives were progressing every few years. I remember being utterly enthralled. A few of the children had stood out so prominently in my eyes that I wanted to know how their lives would turn out. Sometimes it would really be heartbreaking, when they went to check back with the children with some turning to drugs and others passing away. So when I heard Castle would be focusing on a similar sort of concept in her book, I knew I had to give it a try.

The lives of Justine, Felix, Rory, Nate and Keira had been documented into a reality film from the age of 5. The purpose of the documentary was to give a stark insight into their lives and check upon them every 5 years. At 5 years old the group of five kids were a tight knit group, with them sitting together on the same table at school and having sleepovers at each other’s houses. Whilst everyone was still friends at 11 years old, it was easily seeable that were some cracks developing amongst the friendships. Things kind of went downhill after the second film. But now with the third film at 16 years old being planned how would the five individuals who used to be so close cope?

What I enjoyed about You Look Different in Real Life was that we were told the story from Justine’s perspective, but we were given carefully timed flashbacks which gave us interesting insights into the rest of the characters lives. So we did get some back story as the book progressed, but there was still so much that was held back from us, things such as why Nate and Felix and Rory and Justine stopped being best friends. Because of this we were able to learn about how things went wrong with the characters as they tried to piece together how they could make things right.

As we were given this book from Justine’s perspective, I was quick to take on her view point and her opinions of who she held in high regard and who she didn’t. So just like Justine, I was quick to warm up to her good friend Felix and be a bit wary of Rory, Nate and Keira. But I’m pleased to say as the book progressed I was able to form strong connections with all the characters.

You Look Different in Real Life was a story which left a great impression with me. It was wonderful seeing the five individuals having to make the effort with each through forced situations enforced by the directors. But if it wasn’t for these situations, I don’t think everyone would have been able to work through their problems. There were a lot of assumptions and judgements made about each other, so I enjoyed watching each individual character work through this through their journey together.

You Look Different in Real Life is definitely one story which will stand out for me this year. I enjoyed how Castle was able to produce a story about friendships, with a blend of romance, mystery and wonderful road trip along the way. Overall You Look Different in Real Life was just a beautiful read.
589 reviews1,031 followers
June 16, 2013
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

Thank you HarperTeen for sending me this copy. No compensation was given or taken to alter this review.

'This is not a soap opera, folks. This is my life. And if is absolutely, positively as unamazing as you can get.'

Sometimes I wonder how on world can I conjure up enough words into a review. The answer is simple, really: A lot was happening on the novel. Unlike others, You Look Different In Real Life for me was a rather bland ride, only exploring a few ideas of character development, an okayish premise and some romance. In other words, there wasn't much going around so I was generally bored.

The compendium of You Look Different In Real Life is relativity unique and fascinating. Five at Six was a documentary of 5 six year olds in daily life, interviewing them and then sharing it on the big screen. Ideally, 5 years later, we get to meet up with the same 5 kids when they are 11. Now, all aged 16, when mood swings, relationships and all the drama stirs, us readers follow them as the newest documentary is in production. For such a promising idea, I felt deflated at the end as it wasn't executed as well as I'd desired.

One likeable point of this novel were the characters; in terms of development, personality and interactions. Let's start with our main character, Justine. By no means is this girl perfect, in fact, she was the one I held a repugnance towards. Her attitude is toned with layers of confusion, ignorance and I-will-do-everything-you-tell-me-not-to-do. I enjoyed learning about Justine's disorientation about the abrupt downfall in her friendships but her attitude at times go on my nerve to the point where I just wanted to strangle her.

The supporting characters, were much more relatable and provoking to read about. We have Felix- Justine's only friend-but seems to be bid ing some secrets of his own under that film of positivity. Rory- who we barely know. Keira- who used to be Justine's best friend but something passed through them that now is a tense agreement of silence. And Nate- Justine's ex-boyfriend who now suddenly wants to be friends with her again. Each and everyone of them has their own segment of this story that we get to explore and experience. They develop flawlessly throughout the book with great significance. Moreover, all five of our characters can be easily defined as Castle accomplished a lovely job at creating each character so originally.

The main thing that disappointed me in You Look Different In Real Life was the lack of making the synopsis into something more compelling and the amount of movement here. I was constantly bored and wondering when the hell something interesting was going to occur.

It can be drawn that this novel was not my cup of tea as the synopsis had mislead me. Other than that, if you are someone who loves the character aspect of issues, this could be worth a try.
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,115 followers
May 11, 2013
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. No money or any form of transaction was exchanged.

You Look Different in Real Life is the prime example why I do not want to partake in the activities of Facebook anymore, where people post everything about their lives, including the mundane and who-cares stuff, for the entire world to see and scrutinize and for people comme moi to ridicule (just kidding). I do not condone activities where the private and vulnerable moments of people are made public, so when I read this book's synopsis, I truthfully winced.

But like any other bookish individual out there, I'm a sucker for good stories, especially the ones where there are a lot of character development and values to learn from. So, I decided to let myself loose and enjoy the ride for what it was.

And overall, I found the book pretty decent. We're introduced to 5 individuals who've known each other since they were six, as they were the main cast of this documentary where their lives were followed by cameras (which, also, became the most talked about documentary, like, evah). This little project is actually a 4-part project where every 5 years this cast of characters would be featured on film. First when they are six, then when they are eleven, sixteen and ultimately twenty one. They're all teenagers now, at the prime and sweet youth of sixteen and a third movie is in the works, however, it will ultimately prove to be a rocky road as things have changed and the five are not as close anymore. Why and what happened?

The Good Stuff

The side characters. I think they were the most interesting and strongest factor of this novel. There are five, right? Justine, Felix, Nate, Keira, and Rory (Justine is the main character and we see the story unfold in her perspective). All of them are flawed and struggling individuals, having something that happened in their lives that contributed to the rather broken selves they are now. They're all different from one another and amazing in their own way. I loved how I got to know each and every one of them in Justine's eyes, and the metamorphosis they all went through. It's both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time as they tried to find closures for their present and past selves that were seen and watched on film. Wonderful characterization!

The romance at the end. I really liked how the book wasn't centered on romance at all, as in, I actually thought there wouldn't be any of it in the first 95% of the book. LOL! Then it appeared at the end, but interestingly enough, it neither irked me nor felt random; in fact, it felt right and in place given the journey and realizations the characters went through in the majority of the book. It made my heart do a bit of backflips, to be honest. It was such a tease, though, because there were only so little of it! :<

I thought the narration was pretty well-done. It's not a plot-driven story, so if you're looking for a fast-paced drama here and a slap with accompanying "HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO ME" dialogue there, nope, you won't find it. It's very "showing", in which, we are given a clear and bright view of the main character's psyche as well as her opinion and background of the other four. I think it was overall excellent as it did its job of making me engrossed in the story, and also, the author's prose was delightful and musical to read, so, props to that.

The Bad Stuff

Despite having an excellent narration, I disliked the narrator, Justine. Holy crap, not only was she fickle as hell, it also seemed she didn't have any sense of privacy majority of the time. At first, she didn't want to do the movie at all because of, I don't know, issues, and then in the next chapter she wanted to take back her words because apparently, she wanted to piss the directors off or something by coming up with an entirely different appearance. Hum. ¬_¬There were also a lot of vulnerable moments with regards to the other characters, and there were times Justine would simply take out the camera and record it without asking for permission, knowing full well this moment would be caught on film and edited for the viewing pleasure of the whole world. It didn't help that in the first part of the book, she was complaining of how the producers and directors or whoever took advantage of Keira's private moment when she was at her weakest in the first film, and then here she goes, doing the fricking. Same. Thing. What a hypocrite! There were times she felt so insensitive, too. Other characters opened up their sob stories and you know what she said? "Hey, put that on the film! It would make a great inspiration story!" I call bullshit.

The ending chapter felt... how do I say this? In tagalog, we would say, "bitin". I honestly don't know how to expound on that. LOL. It's like it ends, but you feel something is missing and it could have been much more, but it's not exactly "rushed". I think I was supposed to get on to something here, but I don't know what.

So far, it was an interesting read. Not perfect, but not bad, either, and I think I'd recommend it for those who want to read something touching with a lot of character development. It's quite slow, but the slowness fits. Final verdict: 3.5 stars

Read this and my other reviews over at The Social Potato!
The Social Potato Reviews
Profile Image for Disability in Kidlit.
155 reviews355 followers
January 20, 2015
Review written by Corinne Duyvis for Disability in Kidlit. Follow us for more MG/YA reviews from a disabled perspective!

For someone who always crows about wanting to read/see more autistic characters, I’ve actually read embarrassingly few books fitting that criterion. I’m continually hampered by the size of my TBR pile, deadlines, and an assortment of other issues, and usually only come across autistic characters by accident.

So when author Jennifer Castle offered to send me a copy of her latest novel— You Look Different in Real Life , a contemporary YA--to review on Disability in Kidlit, I jumped at the chance.

Going in, I was both curious and apprehensive; all I knew was that it featured an autistic character. I’m relieved to say I’m pleasantly surprised with how the character was portrayed, although I'm not without reservations.

The book is about five teenagers who starred in documentaries at ages five and eleven, and now, at age sixteen, the next installment awaits—but a lot of issues have cropped up between the five of them over the years. They’ve changed since age eleven, and not always in ways they’re happy with. The cameras and film-makers forcing them together brings all these issues to the surface.

This review focuses on Rory, one of the teenagers in the documentary, who was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at some point between ages eleven and sixteen. Though best friends since childhood with our narrator, Justine, they broke up due to Justine’s frustrations with Rory’s behavior. Justine shares various memories of Rory being unable to sleep over at Justine’s house, of Rory completely—and awkwardly—misreading situations, and Rory being bossy and always demanding that things go her way.

Since Justine is our point of view character, one can expect the portrayal of their relationship to be slanted to make Justine's actions look sympathetic and understandable, but the narrative is surprisingly balanced; Justine knows she was wrong in unceremoniously dumping Rory, and there's clear longing and regret woven into their current-day interactions.

In other words, Rory has an actual role in the story. She’s sympathetic, she’s funny, and her role is much more "Justine’s ex-best friend" than "the weird autistic one." She has interests—obsessive ones, natch, largely online-based—and gets to have complex feelings about both the situation they find themselves in and about Justine’s behavior old and new.

All of this delighted me: it’s such a change from the autistic characters I normally encounter in fiction, who are often reduced to props, and who rarely get to display emotions or opinions.

I was also quite pleased with the depiction of Rory’s autistic traits. I completely recognized myself in the way Rory will only briefly make eye contact, then look away—then making another brief moment of eye contact, then looking away again. I do that exact same thing. The way she forced out social niceties was familiar, as well. While I’ve become pretty good at making those things second nature over the years, they weren’t before. (As a teenager, I taught myself to say “good night” to people when parting ways in the evening, then accidentally blurted it out during mornings and afternoons as well.)

Her obsessive interests, her bossiness, the way she separates her food on her plate or aligns objects, her skill at navigating: it’s clear the author did her research instead of falling back on tired assumptions. Both Rory’s autism and the way she’s adapting and learning rang absolutely true to me.

There’s a lot to like, basically, but I did have some reservations. The biggest of these is that so much of Rory’s character and role in the plot are intrinsically tied into her autism. Examples:
* Her role is to be the ex-best friend--which is great--but the reason for the "ex" part is Rory's autism.
* She’s the quiet, odd, awkward one in the group; these traits are linked directly to her autism.
* Ditto for her hobbies--she says they help her understand people.
* Every flashback sequence with Rory directly focuses on her autism.
* Almost every time we see Rory on page, particularly in the first half of the book, her autism is emphasized in some way or another. Instead of simply saying something, it’s mentioned how she says it "flatly" or has to think about it for a while. Instead of simply walking, her gait is described. The way she’s singled out as being unusual happens practically every time the character performs any action, to the point where I did a double-take the first time she's mentioned as doing dishes without the narrative lingering on it.
* Rory's development is all about how she manages to push beyond her boundaries. While I really liked these scenes, they again center around her autism.

Autism is absolutely a big part of most autistic people’s lives; I have no problem with it being woven into many different aspects of a character. Autism isn’t simply a quirky/tragic accessory that can be separated from someone’s "actual self." That said, I did find it problematic that Rory seemingly did not have any history, interests, traits, or behaviors that could just be Rory instead of Autistic Rory™.

The character ends up very much defined by her autism, which is a shame; it wouldn't have taken more than a few tweaks to round her out and make the autism simply a part of her character rather than dominating it.

Other parts that made me hesitant were the way she’s portrayed as "endearing" and the other characters hover over her in such a motherly way. This sometimes gives Rory a little-sister vibe rather than a classmate vibe.

However, that was still handled better than I would’ve expected. For one, it’s textually acknowledged: in a scene when they’re keeping an eye on her from a distance, one character asks, “Does she know she’s got the Secret Service here?”

For another, when Rory is struggling with sensory overload, a character simply asks her, “How can I help?” and asking this question is unequivocally portrayed as being the absolute best thing to do. When they brainstorm solutions that might help Rory through a difficult situation, she’s fully involved in this discussion. She has the final say in what happens, and people respect her agency instead of shoving her around.

In a world where autistic people are often seen as a Problem That Must Be Dealt With, that’s something I appreciated a lot.

A final point of criticism is that in this five-member group of teenagers, with disabled, queer, and non-white characters, it’s quite a shame that our narrator is the straight, white, abled girl of the group. I really enjoyed the book, and I dug Justine's predicament—she was the break-out star of the first two documentaries and feels like she hasn’t lived up to that potential—but I found the other characters more interesting, and I can imagine flat-out loving the book if it had been from one of their perspectives. (Understandably, I'm particularly biased toward Rory being our protagonist.)

As is, though, I appreciated a lot about You Look Different in Real Life; it’s one of those novels that makes me want to read a lot more contemporary YA. While Rory’s portrayal isn’t flawless, it’s well-researched, and a significant step in the right direction of treating autistic characters as regular teenagers and integral parts of the cast.


A lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible. Find her on Twitter or Tumblr. Her YA fantasy debut  Otherbound  released from Amulet Books/ABRAMS in the summer of 2014. It has received four starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Kirkus Reviews called it "original and compelling; a stunning debut," while the Bulletin praised its "subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege."
Profile Image for ᒪᗴᗩᕼ .
1,495 reviews147 followers
March 22, 2018
2 Out 5 "A little too much Y and not enough A" Stars

While You Look Different in Real Life wasn't really for me, I think for a younger audience it may work. The only reason I listened to this in the first place is for a reading challenge (I needed a narrator whose name started with a Q).

Overall, for me, the characters were not memorable and it was really difficult for me to see where this story was going. Ultimately, there is a message there and that's why the ending is the only part that got a decent rating from me.



Plot~ 2/5
Main Characters~ 2/5
Secondary Characters~ 1/5
The Feels~ 1/5
Pacing~ 2/5
Addictiveness~ 1.5/5
Theme or Tone~ 2.5/5
Flow (Writing Style)~ 2/5
Backdrop (World Building)~ 2/5
Ending~ 3.5/5 Cliffhanger~ Nope.

Book Cover~ It's whatever…
Narration~ Samantha Quan is not bad in this, but I really didn't like the book…so maybe that makes it kind of difficult to figure out how I feel about her as a narrator.
Setting~ New York and the surrounding area…I think
Source~ Audiobook (Scribd)



Profile Image for Allison.
398 reviews79 followers
January 12, 2016
I'm sure why I liked this so much. It certainly wasn't the protagonist, Justine. She was such a jerk. I know she's a teenager and teenagers are angsty and annoying, but something just wouldn't let me use that as an excuse. She was very woe is me despite everyone telling her how great she is and how she's the lynch pin for most of the book. Her pity party was pretty unbearable.

But despite Justine's terrible attitude, I found myself fully engrossed in the story and not able to look away. I wanted the kids to come back together as friends and overcome their personal and collective demons. I wanted the documentary to be a success. I just wanted everything to turn out OK.

This is one of those quintessential coming of age stories where so much seems to happen, but when you look back on it, there really all that much to it. Sometimes I really like that- if it's done well.
Profile Image for Shanyn.
375 reviews141 followers
March 12, 2013
On a vacation two years ago, I read Jennifer Castle's debut THE BEGINNING OF AFTER. I thought it only appropriate to bring her sophomore book YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE along with me on vacation this year, and I'm glad I did because I was able to pass it along to two different girls after I was finished, all while gushing about how much I truly loved it.

Full Review: http://chickloveslit.com/2013/04/revi...
Profile Image for Charlotte  Black.
346 reviews20 followers
April 5, 2013
I read The Beginning of After and loved the way that Castle has you thinking about the characters all the way through. So when I had the chance of reading this one I jumped at it.

Castle has a unique gift of providing us with characters that somehow fit into a category. But their personalities are not at all what you would expect and when it comes to teenagers of sixteen and seventeen with all the baggage that comes with teens these days I think she got this one spot on.

So Justine, Keira, Rory, Felix and Nate are all child stars of the hit documentary series Five at Six/Eleven/Sixteen. It started when they were six years old. They were chosen from a large group to feature in the documentary with an aim to find them in five years time and see how they and their families had changed. Five at Six was a huge hit. Five at Eleven was even better. So when the producers find Justine, sitting on a wall outside her local library, not only does Justine know that she's going to be in the spotlight again but she also knows that she'll be a huge disappointment to everyone who watched the shows previously. From the beginning she's against Five at Sixteen. Mostly because when they filmed Eleven she told the cameras everything she wanted to be and to achieve. And in real life she hasn't done any of it. She's heavier than she'd like to be, just been dumped by a boyfriend, has no hobbies to speak of, and apart from a few conversation with Felix has little or no contact with the other three stars.

What we learn as we read the story through flashbacks and private meetings is that they've all changed. Grown up, grown away from one another. Mostly they've all be affected by their lives being open to public scrutiny, to be criticised and contradicted. Their family lives are different. Justine's own father now doesn't live at home and they only have a family dinner on Thursdays.

When Sixteen gets talked about openly Justine sees her parents diving at the opportunity. She sees for the first time how her mother would like more publicity for her business. How her father likes the attention. Surprisingly her sister, Olivia, says she wants nothing to do with it. The films of the past must have affected her own life.

When filming starts the producers are confused. Why are this kids not performing like they used to? Where are the stars that the public know and love? Justine was always funny on film. The others all had their own idiosyncrasies too. As Justine points out, they're all teenagers now. They have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Parents expectations, their own expectations, genuine friendships that are hard to find. None of the 5 gel together. They've all fallen apart in five years.
Although the filming is supposed to be natural and organic, the producers realise they'll have to break a few rules with this one. They use Nate's swim meet as one example to get all the five together in one room. All it proves is that the five kids would rather be anywhere else. So a team building weekend is suggested, that doesn't work well either...until Keira exploits the opportunity and uses it to her own advantage. When Keira goes missing the other four can't do anything but go after her. And that's where the true story of the Five at Sixteen film begins.

I've seen this experiment many times on documentaries on TV. Personally I would hate the idea of a camera following me round constantly to get an eyeful of my life. Sure, when your six years old everything is funny and a joke. When you're eleven things start getting a bit more serious. The exploitation of the kids lives can never be realised until they're much older and by that time its too late. People judge you by what you see on TV not by who you really are in real life. Much like actors and actresses we see today.

I thought Castle did a fantastic job with the story. Autism and Gay were proudly shown in their true finery. Family break ups and friendships were discussed in length and all told with a sympathetic voice and a strong resolution. The story is heartbreaking at times, especially when Castle reveals why the five don't get along any more. And a good ending that wrapped up the story nicely was perfect.

Recommended to anyone who loved Castle's previous work and anyone who watches reality TV!
Profile Image for Sarah  (sarahandherbookshelves).
361 reviews23 followers
May 21, 2013
Source: Edelweiss

I read You Look Different in Real life in less than 24 hours. You Look Different in Real life tells us the story of Justine and how when she was 6 and 11 she took part of a documentary along with four other children. Five years have passed once again and there are plans of making a documentary of their lives at 16. Justine at first is against this idea as her life has not how she pictured it to be. She also does not speak to the other participants in the documentary other than her friend Felix and this also makes her uncertain about the documentary.

You Look Different in Real life was a quick read and I was interested in what was going to happen to the characters even though I found the plot to be predictable. I figured out much of what I would say are major plot points straight away. I also didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters and even though I was interested in what was going to happen to them I didn’t really care what happened to them. Justine got on my nerves at times but I liked that she wanted to rebuild some of her friendships with the others and not go back to where their relationships had ended before.

Find more reviews at Sarah and her bookshelves
Profile Image for Dayla.
2,067 reviews201 followers
June 5, 2013
Review first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7

I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle is a young adult contemporary novel that plays with the popular themes of life viewed through a camera lens--Reality Television--and shows us just how stressful and unglamorous the lifestyle might truly be, especially when you're a teenager trying to figure out not only who you are, but who you think the world wants you to be.

Sprinkled with a dash of romance, made more exciting by the one-night adventure that eventually becomes the growing point for these characters, and offered as a way of seeing how sometimes we changed into who we want to become without even knowing it, You Look Different in Real Life is a fun, realistic, and very promising novel.

While there is a lot going on, all the events happening are understandable. Though Castle's novel is shown from the perspective of Justine, the protagonist, the story is actually about the five teenagers who grew up in a sort of spotlight. Their lives fell apart, or became lies in the two documentaries prior to the one being filmed in the novel, so it is only fair that we come to learn and accept all of the characters and not just Justine.

Justine is the rebel of the group, and while she spends a good chunk of the novel fighting her insecurities and stubbornness, we see her the way others see her: As someone with great promise. I love her character because she is believable--she's jaded by the way people have placed expectations on her, and she doesn't want any of the attention, but she also doesn't see herself as anything special. She is humble and blind to her own power as a character that everyone listens to.

I was absolutely in love with the idea of adventure set in a storyline that could have easily become cliched and boring. I loved how Castle gave back her characters the power to choose how their lives would be portrayed, and how she made You Look Different in Real Life about more than just young love and how we see ourselves.

Castle touches on important topics, such as: sexuality, mental illness, abandonment, bullying, and a few others. Castle's portrayal of some of the most important issues in today's young adult society is brilliant, at times funny, and poignant. She doesn't shy away from showing us characters who are unique in their worlds, and for that I am happy to have read her book.

Sometimes all we need is a book that features characters who the author remains true to. These kinds of characters are more realistic and believable, making them easier to connect with.

The pacing is wonderful, seeing as the pages flew by and the story gained more and more momentum until the crescendo near the end occurs, which ironically parallels a scene in the novel that also contains its own source of anticipation, effectively recreating that same sense of curiosity that comes after asking "what next?".

Also, I'm a huge fan of any book that features New York City, small towns, and characters who find ways to redeem themselves organically, rather than through forced means.

If you're looking for a book that expertly navigates the complicated world of teenaged-inspired documentaries through witty characters, fast-paced prose, lots of adventure, romance, and unexpected acts of bonding, then you might like this one.
Profile Image for Isamlq.
1,578 reviews709 followers
July 10, 2013
Dear Jennifer Castle,

How’d you do it? The stuff in here has me flashing back to my teenage self. You’ve got me thinking you must have been in my head back then. Because despite the subject of reality TV stars being far from my reality (anyone’s reality, actually,) you’ve managed to make them all feel real.

Justine especially, echoes so many of the thoughts that at one point or other were mine. Thoughts on longing, on guilt, on dissatisfaction, on being burdened, and even on being resentful for the last, then the back to guilt- a hop skip and jump away from the LONGING, yet again! Yes, it’s the makings of a cycle of feels that the lead is seems to be stuck in! --- Seriously though, how’d you do it, Jennifer, getting in my head way back when like you have? It’s a feeling that’s doubled up given the parallels between her and a certain other member of the cast.

So, you’ve made them all feel real despite the set up of reality TV of kids growing up, becoming whoever they were to become at five, then eleven, and now sixteen. There’s that question on how the expectations of their audience shaped them, instead of the film simply being a platform to show them becoming whoever they were to become. --- Ponder with me here, people because it’s things like these that revealed the surprising depth in this book.

Who’s Justine become? Who have they all become, really? Better who are they becoming? What’s their story? All these not-so-little things had the realness of her feelings jump out at me DESPITE the unreal-ness of the situation. The “this is my life now” dissatisfaction that she was feeling is the emotion that struck true the most for me; only instead of that, Past-Me would have been wondering “is this the best there is?” --- Again, how’d you do it, Jennifer Castle, take this unreal almost Hollywood feel set up, flip it, and make it feel so very, very real?

Sure, sometimes you went for the obvious - like with that ending that’s one part cheese and another part “makes sense,” (given the parallels, yeah?) or with Felix and the question of who he was (not), but then there's the rest of it of you bringing it back to the longing and the guilt and all those other feels that had to do with how Justine thought she knew them all (but not really… ) and how the reverse applied with others knowing who she was (or thinking they did.) All the “knowing” and “not-knowing” between them, among them of each other and then of their respective selves… well, all that? I wasn’t expecting any of it. --- So, how’d you do it?

...Because I’m hoping you’re going to do it all again,

Profile Image for Just a person .
995 reviews294 followers
May 5, 2013
I liked Justine and connected with her right away, I felt confused for the first part of the book. I knew the premise but it just felt like everyone was going around knowing something that I didn't. Why Justine had changed, why she felt like such a disappointment, and what had changed at school.
But I think that was the whole point. Because as you get into the story, Justine remembers the moments as the film crew is there again, and things all begin to fit together.
One of the themes is that Justine is disappointed, and it comes out as anger. She is disappointed that she didn't live up to what her eleven year old self thought she would be. But then she begins to see what is special about her, what makes everyone special. That we all have a story to tell. It may not be one that makes millions, and then again, maybe we aren't looking at it the right way. But I loved each moment where something clicked for her. Where she realizes that it is okay to change, that she needs to love who she has become, and that she can always start working for another goal again.
Another theme is friendship. How it can change or how some relationships just reach an end, whether natural or by a fight or other circumstances. I liked watching her with Felix, seeing how they encourage one another, how a true friendship should be and what we should strive for. Then there are the others that ended, and how Justine deals with the parts that were her fault.
There was one part near the end where they were all together and had went through a lot, and she said that they helped make each other whole. They realized more about themselves and life by being together.
The characters are all fleshed out well, and the pacing was good. The ending wrapped things up really well and I enjoyed the story overall.

Bottom Line: A refreshing premise that delivers emotion, and shows the lives of characters that were changed both positively and negatively by being on screen.
Profile Image for Tee loves Kyle Jacobson.
2,474 reviews172 followers
April 16, 2013
You Look Different In Real Life is one of those books that takes you by surprise. I have to say the idea of a documentary following kids around and seeing how they grow and what happens to them at the age of 6 then 11 and then when they are teenagers at 16 is an interesting concept. When I read the blurb of this book I was hooked. I can't imagine being in the spotlight at the most crucial times in a child's life. The Documentary is called Five at six/eleven/sixteen.

I have to say that I really loved this book because it took us into the lives of five kids Justine, Keira, Rory, Felix, and Nate. We get to see them start out as innocent kids and then life throws them curve balls and other everyday things and the kids have to grow up fast. They will experience hurt, loss and first loves and will have to make it through their teenage years.

Justine narrates the story and we get to see through flashback and private meetings how all five have changed and sometimes it was for the better and sometimes for the worse. For Justine she feels like a complete failure because she is heavier than she was and she has been dumped by her boyfriend and and has not kept in contact with the other four. Life has taken it's toll on her and she is disappointed because she said she was going to do a lot with her life but she has done nothing.

This is a great story to read a must read so other kids can see they always don't have it as bad as they think. Real life is very much different from what the cameras show you.
Profile Image for Tiff.
572 reviews538 followers
May 1, 2013
Even though my schedule is totally packed with books to read, I couldn't resist taking this one on because I loved the concept so much. And while it didn't completely blow me away, You Look Different in Real Life is a solidly written, emotional novel that delves beautifully into teens whose lives were dramatically changed by being caught on camera - both in good and bad ways.

The story is that Justine, Rory, Felix, Keira, and Nate were all kids who were placed together at the same kindergarten table. Filmmakers Leslie and Larry captured them and their families at six years old, and then again at eleven for two documentary films called Five at Six and Five at Eleven. The families agreed that the kids would be filmed every five years until they were twenty-one. Now the kids are sixteen, and it's time for the filmmakers to come again. But Five at Eleven tanked. And Justine's not even sure she wants to be in the movie.

It's fascinating to meet these kids and to try to figure out their story. Like with a documentary, the book skillfully masks certain pieces for dramatic effect. Why did the last movie, Five at Eleven, tank? What happened between Rory and Justine to make them not be friends? Between Felix and Nate? Are the filmmakers as unemotional and divorced from their subjects as we think?

Read the rest of this review at Mostly YA Lit
Profile Image for PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps .
2,306 reviews220 followers
June 24, 2016

Justine and four of her classmates are part of a documentary Five At that followed the kids at age 6, 11 and are now shooting the 16-year-olds. The teens have grown apart and filmmakers want to reestablish their bond. The group includes: Rory, Justine's former best friend, who has Aspergers, the aloof Keira, golden boy Nate and his former best friend Felix who's hiding a secret.

I had a difficult time warming up to Justine as she continually chose silence over kindness and went against her instincts. Fortunately she grew the most of any character in the story. I thought Rory's the speed achievements on a road trip were unrealistic. Felix's "secret" was obvious to me early on. I wanted to know more about Keira, the most interesting character. I read the short story FINDING KEIRA and hoped for more insight into her personality.

The first half of the book dragged a bit, but by the second half, I was invested in all five teens and eager to find out what happened. The ending felt predictable and bland.

Jennifer Castle has a pleasant writing style and gave Justine an authentic, engaging voice. I like the direction she took Justine's character.

YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE is an enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable story.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
March 30, 2017
3 stars. There are genuinely heart-wrenching parts of this book, but it ends up as just another romantic contemporary novel.

The Two Things That Could've Saved This Book
And, why they lacked here

1. Better thematic work. This was a boring take on a good premise. There's no clear thesis, but the book doesn't explore the issues of privacy deeply enough to get away with the lack of thesis.

2. Better character arcs. There are five interesting characters here, yet none of them have clear point A to point B development. The main character, Justine, has less development than several of her friends. This specific book could've been saved by multiple points of view; I so wanted to know what was going on in Keira's head.

In general, this was just pretty meh. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it.
Profile Image for Zemira Warner.
1,569 reviews1,040 followers
October 29, 2017
Jennifer Castle has to be one of the most underrated YA authors. I never see people read her books but once you check out the reviews for her work, you'll see how much readers connect with her characters and storylines.
Profile Image for Magan.
352 reviews88 followers
June 24, 2014
My goodness gracious. I am completely taken by surprise. I don't know what I was expecting, but I didn't think it would be laughter, tears, and such a full heart. Loved!

- - - - -

Review originally published on Rather Be Reading:

Have you ever misjudged a book? Maybe just thought it would tell a different story than what you read? When I began reading You Look Different in Real Life, I expected something a bit more light-hearted that I would breeze through. I stopped reading book summaries a few months ago because I felt like they were spoiling so much for me, but in this particular case, I think maybe the cover eludes to a different story. (Thoughts?) But I digress… — WOW! — am I so glad I was so misguided. What I read — what Jennifer Castle wrote — is absolutely phenomenal.

In a nutshell, You Look Different in Real Life is deep, engaging, so meaty and full of story — there’s past and present stories that makes everything flow effortlessly. I laughed, I cried. I couldn’t put it down.

Justine, the main character, is uncertain of who she is. When she was six years old, she partook in a documentary film with four other six-year-olds (Rory, Nate, Felix, and Kiera) that followed them throughout the course of a few months. When they turned eleven, the film crew popped back into their lives to begin filming again. At sixteen, Justine is expecting a phone call. She knows they’ll return because the intent was to follow them until they turned 21. She’s hesitant of their return because at 6 and 11, she was somewhat the standout kid — she was quirky and full of personality. She won the hearts of thousands. At 16, she feels she’s digressed because she peaked at 11. Justine now feels like she’s lost herself — she has no hobbies and no particular talents. Everyone who loved her in the previous films will be disappointed with who she’s become.

To make matters more interesting, Justine, Rory, Nate, Kiera, and Felix aren’t really a close group of friends. They’ve all, in multiple ways, hurt one another. Rory is Justine’s ex-best friend; she’s odd and blatantly honest. Justine has things she wants to say to Rory, genuinely, but is afraid that they will come off as being timed for the film. Nate has made the biggest turnaround of the group; he used to be a misfit who got teased endlessly, but now he’s a popular jock. Justine resents him because she thinks (but doesn’t know the details of the exact encounter) he did something to Felix, her present day best friend. Felix wants to be a star; he’s always felt overshadowed and wants to have a bigger role in the next film. And lastly, there’s Kiera. She and Justine orbit in different worlds and don’t particularly get along. Kiera is friends with Nate and she’s pretty/popular.

What the film crew expects to find is the complete opposite of the reality they stumble upon. So much so that they have to intervene and begin to manipulate situations to get these very hesitant-to-interact teenagers together. What really makes the story feel like a fresh breath of air are the many, many details put into aspects of who these kids are/were. Everything feels completely believable and realistic. We aren’t always given all of the details upfront, but I trusted Castle would carefully lead us to the end of the rainbow where all the answers awaited. There’s not a moment I felt like she, Castle, was providing unsubstantial information; each sentence was flooded with supportive details and full of character-building. Every progression in the story felt natural and made so much sense.

But maybe my most favorite aspect was how well-rounded everything felt. Castle set the scene and created a whole picture throughout the book by including a barrage of family and friendship moments. With all the transitions, growth, uncertainty. I find it impressive that a story based on the “reality” of five teenagers being filmed and documented could ironically feel so flawless and full of life; maybe because reality TV has conditioned me to believe only 5% of what’s being aired, I assumed Castle’s story would take the same over-the-top approach since it tackled a familiar situation. But I just couldn’t have been more wrong.

You Look Different in Real Life turned out to be one of the happiest surprises of 2013 for me!
Profile Image for Celeste_pewter.
593 reviews147 followers
March 9, 2013
Two-second recap: You Look Different in Real Life is a quiet, introspective novel reflecting on the themes of self-identity, and the lenses that we use to view our lives.


Full review:

In 1964, Britain's Granada Television station commissioned a groundbreaking documentary from filmmakers Paul Almond and Michael Apted. Almond and Apted were tasked to pick fourteen seven-year-olds from across London, and document their day-to-day lives.

Apted would then return every seven years, to charge the course that the lives of these fourteen-year-olds had taken. Some fulfilled all of their dreams, while others didn't quite live up to the ambitions that they showed when they were seven.

While the documentaries were lauded by the film making community and viewers for their ability to dig deep into the mysteries of the human existence, how did the participants of the documentaries feel? Did they believe that their lives shaped the films, or was it the other one around?

In You Look Different in Real Life, Castle attemps to answer these questions through the eyes of her sixteen-year-old protagonist Justine.


Things that worked:

* The characters. Castle does a good job having a diverse, well-rounded cast of characters, all of whom have been impacted by the documentaries in a variety of ways.

Justine's a brat for a good portion of the book - there's no way of getting around it. However, her bratty behavior makes sense, especially when you think about how exploited she must feel to:

1) have a camera following her around, year after year
2) know that there are people- thousands of people she's never met - discussing her motivations, personality, etc.

I also really liked the fact that Castle made it a point to include both an autistic character and a LGBT character, and realistically showed how 1) the documentary participants dealt with the development of one character's autism, and the other character's decision to come out, and 2) how those individual characters came to terms with their own strengths throughout the course of the book.

* An active adult presence. Though none of the parents in the book were perfect, they were all active and contributed to the plot in their own ways. It's a nice change from the YA books which feature teenagers only.

* Castle's fictionalization of a real-world device. This is a minute point, but I really enjoyed the fact that Castle was obviously inspired by the Up documentary series to write this book. I know that she addressed a lot of the questions I had when watching the documentaries.

* How quiet the interactions of all the characters are. Even when characters are disagreeing, there isn't any of the drama that you might expect from a group of teens who are being filmed for posterity.

These quiet interactions brings up some interesting/thought-provoking questions on whether the characters are just too drained from the drama in their documentary life, to have any in their real life.

* The fact that the adults didn't have all of the answers. Leslie - the chief filmmaker - is uncertain about her place in these teen's lives throughout much of the book, and I think this does a good job in showing kids that adults don't always have all of the asnwers, and that's okay.


Things to consider:

I would have loved to have Castle explore Justine's evolution from disenchanted teen to budding filmmaker, a little more.

Though Justine's transition in the latter half of the book is organic and realistic, there was never a strong eureka moment. So the evolution felt more passive and by-the-book, if anything. The lack of that eureka moment kind of took the energy out of the third half of the book.


Final verdict:

You Look Different in Real Life is a quiet novel, but holds strong lessons on the concepts of self-identity and self-discovery. I would strongly recommend this for everyone, including non-traditional young adult readers.

Highly recommend for fans of Sarah Dessen, John Green, Kasie West
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,893 reviews352 followers
October 7, 2014
Justine is used to people recognizing her, acting like they know here even if they're strangers. That's what happens when your childhood is filmed as part of an award-winning documentary.

It started when Justine was six. She was filmed with four other students in her kindergarten class. Then again when she turned eleven.

Justine is sixteen now and it's time for Lance and Leslie to come back for another film. But Justine doesn't want anything to do with it.

She can see why Lance and Leslie picked the other kids: quirky Nate, smart Keira, outgoing Felix and Rory who did whatever she wanted. Justine never saw that same spark, that piece of interesting, in herself.

Reviewers always call Justine the star, the edgy one. They expect great things from her. But now, at sixteen, Justine feels anything but as she is forced to look not just at her unamazing life but also at the friendships that have shattered since Five at 6 and Five at 11 were filmed.

Now that a new film is coming Justine isn't sure if she should be excited or terrified. This film might be her chance to finally prove that she is as amazing as everyone thinks and maybe even fix some friendships along the way. But it also might not fix anything. It might just confirm Justine's suspicions that she is anything but film-worthy in You Look Different in Real Life (2013) by Jennifer Castle.

Sometimes when you read a book you go in with expectations of the story you will get. And sometimes that expected story is nothing like the story the author has written. Unfortunately that was the case with You Look Different in Real Life. I went in wanting details of the previous documentaries and the current filming. Instead I got cursory flashbacks and vague references to the crew. In the second half of the novel the documentary plot became very secondary to another character's storyline so that the whole premise began to feel more gimmicky and less vital to the story.

You Look Different in Real Life also ends just when things should be getting interesting. Justine has a breakthrough about some aspect of the filming. But we never get to know what it actually is. By the end of the book it felt like Castle was only giving readers half the story as the documentary was forgotten (having already served its purpose as an inciting incident.)

Justine should have been a sympathetic, authentic narrator. She should have had original experiences and a unique take on things thanks to being the subject of a series of documentaries. Instead Justine came across as very one-dimensional and unbearably whiny. While she does have a clear development from beginning to end, her lack of self-esteem and confidence in the beginning was overwhelming to the point that her own self criticisms began to make me feel bad about my own life. That's completely unacceptable.

Justine's short-comings are lessened, slightly, thanks to the supporting cast. That is until a lot of them fell into predictable character types with equally unsurprising side stories. There are a lot of near-misses and false starts at the characters try to reconnect and, ultimately, it all just felt very forced.

If you want an okay book about a girl coming into her own and discovering her own talents and strengths, You Look Different in Real Life is a decent choice. It doesn't have the best heroine or language (Justine moved with surprising frequency between acting/sounding much younger than sixteen and acting/sounding much older) but all of the elements are there for a quick, fairly fun read. If you want a book that focuses more on the effects of being on film or performing you'll be better served picking up something like Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Possible Pairings: Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going, You Don't Know Me by David Klass, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*
Profile Image for Danielle.
254 reviews124 followers
November 12, 2013
Read more reviews at What Danielle Did Next

Reality TV is depending on what side of the fence you stand on is either great entertainment or the very worst of media's many faces. Either way it can't be denied that there is something fascinating about getting an insider look into people's lives. The mundane becomes the must-see.

YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE tells the story of five kids, first filmed at six, then eleven and now the producers are back to catch up with the cast at 16. In the five years since Five at Eleven aired things have changed for Nate, Felix, Rory, Keira and narrator, Justine. Can the five formerly close friends come together to give the world the insight into these mini celebs' lives they crave so dearly for or will they fade into obscurity like so many reality stars before them?

This book was not at all what I expected. I thought this would be filled with cat fights and back stabbing, scenes created for your entertainment type scenarios and instead I got a wonderful coming of age story about friendship and love and I simply adored it!

There is a psychological "phenomenon" these days that has come with the advent of social media called FOMO -- Fear of Missing Out. Social media while it has become a means for communication and friendship has become a source of anxiety and resentment as people compare their behind the scenes to other people's highlight reel.

YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE highlighted the problems of advertising your life for public consumption whether as the star of your own show on E! or simply the star of your peer circle. What face do you put on? What is your story? How much do you gloss over and what image is presented? The truth or something beautiful?

I loved Justine, our MC. The star of the previous two movies, at sixteen she is not where she thought she would be when she looks back at the spunky, sassy eleven year old with all her big plans. Aware now of how many aspects of her and her friends lives were manipulated for entertainment purposes she's wary of wading back into the fray. Unspoken tensions with the other members of the group also weigh heavily on her mind and her anxiety takes on a physical manifestation in the form of stomach cramps which I thought was interesting how the adults brushed aside her pain if it meant a better scene or storyline.

Her interactions with the rest of the group were at times equally hilarious and heartbreaking. Justine is clearly the glue that connects them all, without her the cohesive nature of their story falls apart. In the five years since the last movie each of the group has gone through their own metamorphosis, Nate the popular swimmer who, on the rare occasion he locks eyes with Justine seems to cut through the walls she's built to protect herself. Keira, the little girl who had her mother's departure screened worldwide, looks upon the world with the cool eyes of one whose popularity seems assured. Rory, always the "strange" one has found her niche and Felix, the one who desperately wants to be understood but above all noticed.

What starts as a simple bonding exercise in the woods to shake off the cobwebs and get some footage on camera turns into a road trip of discovery as the five take off in search of Keira's mother and in the process rediscover both who they are and what they truly mean to each other. This is a book about connecting and reconnecting and I loved how the friendships played out. Castle created a book filled with realistic and wonderful characters that I couldn't help but want to know more about. Quiet and unassuming, the relationships both platonic and romantic play out over an ordinary weekend of extraordinary things.

Unexpected and captivating, YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE was a sweet and wonderful coming of age story that I will remember for a long time and I personally cannot wait to read more from this author.

Profile Image for Judyth.
1,630 reviews39 followers
June 15, 2013

When I saw this at the book store, a while before the release date, I wasn’t sure if I wanted it, mainly because of what I’d thought of Castle’s first book, The Beginning of After. But it sounded good, as I’m usually attracted to books with media-related themes. So I decided to give her another chance, see if I liked this one more. And I am really glad that I decided to get it, because I was pleasantly surprised with this book.

Justine, one of five kids who were chosen to be in this documentary when she was six, a new movie to be made every five years, is now sixteen, and dreading being in the next movie. Most of the five weren’t friends to start with, and most of them aren’t friends now, for differing reasons. Justine is the feisty one, the one who supposedly always had a comeback to make people laugh, only now she doesn’t know who she is anymore. Rory is autistic, and sweet, but rather left out when it comes to the five. Felix is into music, but he’s never gotten very much attention, and is only friends with Justine. Nate used to be the loner that was bullied, but now he’s popular. And Keira’s mother left her and her father alone, and she left but now is back, and is only close with Nate. And now they’re all in the new movie together, when most of them don’t even want to be in the same room together.

I liked Justine, and I liked being in her head, even if I’d have liked being in several of the other characters’ heads as well (particularly Nate's and Rory's). Justine is very lost, is friends with Felix but doesn’t really feel close with anyone. Everyone liked her from the first two movies, but she doesn’t understand why. She has no idea what she’s doing with her life, and I liked how much she grew by the end of the book.

I liked Rory, and felt a bit bad for her, and maybe would have liked to have gotten to know her better. She seemed to be growing by the end of the book, and I would have liked to see more of that. Keira was alright, and her storyline was interesting. I liked Felix, and felt bad for his circumstances—I rather wanted to hug him, honestly. And hope that things get even better in the future for him. And I liked Nate—I was a bit unsure of him for a lot of the novel, but I did like him by the end.

The story is really slow going, focusing a lot on Justine and how the five of them don’t want to be around each other and yet are being pushed to hang out for the movie. I liked where the plot went, though; it went in a somewhat surprising direction, and I liked that a lot. Plus, where, in Castle’s first book, it had a hard time keeping my attention, this one was really easy to keep reading. I actually finished the book a lot faster than I’d expected to. Like I said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book, by how good it was and how easy it was to read.

The romance is a very small part of the book, very minuscule. For a while, I wasn’t even sure if a romance was going to show up, but I was really happy with how it turned out. That plot was kept really subtle, which works because of how not-close everyone was, and with the fact that they all had more important things to deal with.

I really enjoyed this book—quite a lot. And now I’m sure that I will be picking up whatever Castle releases next.

This review is also available on my blog (with extras!), among many others.
Profile Image for Rabiah.
488 reviews216 followers
September 14, 2014
**4/4.5 stars**

Originally posted at: http://iliveforreading.blogspot.com/2...

It’s sad to say that I’ve had this book on my shelf for WAY too long. I borrowed this from one of my best friends and fellow book blogger, Richa (City of Books) – I’m so sorry for keeping this too long! – and unfortunately because there was never a good time, I kept putting off reading it. I HAVE SO MANY REGRETS. This book was amazing. Nay, it was awesome. You Look Different in Real Life had the right amount of humour, emotional trauma and a unique concept that really made this stand out from other contemporaries.

First of all, the storyline: so original! I mean, contemporaries about movies and TV shows have been done, but something like this, a documentary series that follows five children every five years is pretty amazing. Plus, I don’t think I’ve read anything, other than Secrets of My Hollywood Life, that deals with someone who’s been part of the film business for a while. There was such a good range of characters and such diversity of events that occur throughout the novel, so much that there wasn’t a dry part of the novel for me at least. I would have thought that being followed around with a camera crew would have it’s perks, but after reading this novel, I can definitely see the problems that arise and the consequences that it creates.

Speaking of characters, I loved ALL of them. Seriously. I enjoyed Justine’s humour and personal conflict as she comes to terms with who she is and who she wants to be. I adored Felix’s outgoing personality and the little twist that comes up later on in the novel– his story definitely gets interesting. Nate at first seemed a little cold, but I totally warmed up to his character as he and Justine interact more. Kiera was the only one who I thought was really distant from the four, but her story definitely dominates most of the story and is the undercurrent to the plot. Rory I couldn’t help but feel bad for. However, I also liked that she was okay with being different and accepted herself. I even liked Leslie’s character, because even though she was kind of went Effie-Trinket all over the five kids, like The Hunger Games character she truly cares for the kids.

There is a teeny bit of romance between two of the characters – not gonna mention which two – and while I think it was fine, it didn’t make much sense to me. They haven’t talked for a very long time, and because they suddenly start to open up to each other, that means that they fall in love? Maybe I missed something, but this was the only part that was slightly off-putting. However, the relationships that form between all five of the children is so real– Castle has certainly done an amazing job portraying it!

You Look Different in Real Life was an honest portrayal of what goes on behind the camera lens, and I loved how real and sincere it was. I couldn’t put this one down for a second! Jennifer Castle is an author that will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen's and Elizabeth Scott’s novels, and is a fresh voice in YA that I can’t WAIT to hear more from.
Profile Image for Brandy Painter.
1,605 reviews228 followers
May 29, 2013
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

I couldn't help but be drawn to the concept of You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle. In our era of "reality" TV, to take a look at the story of some one who is put in the position of having their life filmed is brilliant. My only fear was that Castle would not do her idea the justice it deserves. No worries. This is an excellent novel.

First person present tense narration is not my favorite. I don't despise it, but I find it distracting. Justine's voice is so strong that after the first couple of pages I didn't even notice it anymore. Justine has a wonderful voice, vulnerable, angry, pitiful, sympathetic. She has faults and weaknesses but she is also endearing. I liked her at the same time I wanted to tell her exactly what she was missing through her self-focused lens. Yet the lens through which she sees the world and people around her changes through the novel and the way this comes about is brilliant. Her relationship with her family, her fellow stars, and the producers is wonderfully portrayed. It was interesting to see the other kids through Justine's eyes, the snippets shared from the first two movies, and the interactions they have with her. This is a diverse group of characters which is completely realistic. This group is exactly the group documentary film producers would love. Felix is the son of immigrants. Nate is a member of a local farming family and son of a young single mom. Keira is the bi-racial daughter of an English professor. Rory is an autistic girl. I came to care for all of them individually and as a group. They were genuine teens and Castle does an excellent job as portraying them and their world.

It was interesting to see how being filmed formed, changed, and influenced each of the kids and how hard they are trying to break free of that. I like that Castle didn't resort to cliche's in the portrayal of any of them or their parents. I appreciate what the story was saying about the phenomenon of filming "real" life and how it affects individuals as well as society, but that wasn't the main theme of the novel. The story is ultimately about friendship and discovering who you are and what that means in the context of those around you. The way the relationships between the five morphs over the course of the story is organic and even the romantic element works and comes off well.

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys contemporary YA stories with great characters.

I read a galley provided by HarperTeen. You Look Different in Real Life is on sale June 4.
Profile Image for Clementine.
1,470 reviews83 followers
August 6, 2013
When the documentary series started, Justine was young enough to not recognize how it would impact her life. Five kids living their lives, with a film crew checking in on them every five years. It was fine when they were in kindergarten, but now that they’re sixteen? Things are different, and the close-knit group is no longer all that close–or even speaking to each other. So when the camera crew shows up and expects a story, Justine and the other teens struggle to give them what they want. But this reunion just might be the thing they didn’t know they needed.

Jennifer Castle’s latest offering is clearly a play on the documentary series Up, which follows a group of British kids around, starting in 1964 when they are seven years old. It’s a fascinating series (and is still going on!), and this book modernizes it somewhat by placing the teens in today’s world. There’s a lot of good stuff explored in this thoughtful novel, but it also tries to cram too much into its pages, making it feel a little bloated.

The individual stories of the five teens in the novel are revealed slowly, allowing the reader to get to know each of them quite intimately, despite the fact that Justine remains the narrator throughout. All five teens are well-rounded, interesting, and fairly authentic. However, the story is unnecessarily complicated by a cast that is too large. There’s too much to keep track of, and as a result, some of the stories suffer. Different plot points are dropped too quickly, and others get lost in the rest of the book.

There’s also the issue of the story lagging–and I mean really lagging–in the middle. Castle is a good writer, and her strengths lie in her character development–but a good chunk of the middle would have benefited from some strong editing. A tighter middle would have made for better pacing overall, as the book’s pacing is uneven at best. Still, a satisfying ending and strong characters keep this one interesting enough. The individual scenes between characters are strong and compelling enough to keep most readers interested in what’s going on.

Not as outstanding as this reader was hoping, but still pretty good. Definitely an interesting premise with strong character development. Might work well for teens looking for a reality-TV-ish fix with some substance to it.

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle. HarperTeen: 2013. Digital copy accepted for review via Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Andy.
70 reviews10 followers
May 24, 2013

I was extremely surprised at how much this story got to me. Not only do we get a set of well rounded characters that you can instantly connect with, you also get this captivating story of five individuals that were once all friends but have drifted apart. 

Justine, Rory, Nate, Felix and Keira were all hand picked at five years old to star in an up and coming documentary called Five to Six. Little did they know that, that little film would shoot them into stardom. The directors Leslie and Lance Rodgers decided to make it a four part series and film every five years until the kids turn twenty-one. When they filmed Five to Eleven we got a glimpse of where their friendship were and where they were at that point in time. Five years later Leslie and Lance are back to continue their story, but a lot has changed since they were all eleven. Justine and Rory have had a falling out, same goes for Nate and Felix. They have all grown apart and barely know each other now. We follow their wonderful journey to finding themselves and getting to see their own lives through the lens this time.

You Look Different in Real Life actually made me question many things. Such as: What has changed in the last five years? A lot. Are you still friends with the people you were once close with back then? Not really. Did you live up to what you thought you would be doing? That one is still pretty much up in the air because whenever I get asked "Where do you see yourself in five years?" I honestly never know how to answer it because you never really know. You have to live your life in the now and just enjoy the ride.

You Look Different in Real Life is an impressively, beautiful, well written story that you can get lost in for days. Not only does Castle's writing style draw you in from the very beginning, but she also manages to capture what these five individuals once were and now are. Five totally different stories are woven into one so effortlessly that you can't help diving in head first and getting lost in this incredible story.
Profile Image for Sandy.
2,526 reviews59 followers
August 11, 2013
3.5 starts
They started off in kindergarten sitting in tiny chairs, getting to know each other, capturing their lives behind the telephoto lens. Five children at ages six and eleven, they made documentaries capturing their lives, splashing it up on the big screen making celebrities out of such small humans. Now at age 16, they are back on the scene, hoping to capture the five teens but these teen’s lives are far from what the directors are craving. The collaboration they once had, the unity they once shared has been broken. The closeness is gone but the show must go on. The directors and the audience are waiting. As the characters have drifted apart so have some of the families that have created these celebrities. Feeling that are so buried deep inside are a major issue that the teens must address if they are to be successful. As they bring these teens together, layers of emotions are touched and prodded but there is something deeper within that must be uncovered. Trying to bring the teens together, the directors host a weekend retreat at a cabin. This retreat is a wakeup call as the teens take matters into their own hands to find the root of their pain. As the camera is rolling, it’s real and there are no do-over’s.
The reading was a bit slow in the beginning and uneventful. Things started to pick up in the middle as the teens got more involved in the book. You would think that the children would just drift away from each other as they got older and matured but it much deeper than that. There are reasons why the teens drifted apart and that’s when the book got interesting. All the characters have interesting tales and at times it reminded me of the famous movie The Breakfast Club. Like in the movie: all the characters are different yet they all are the same when you really think about it, it all depends on how you look at it.
Profile Image for Kay.
477 reviews119 followers
August 27, 2013
I had heard many great things about Jennifer Castle’s first novel The Beginning of After, but with so much to read already, I never got around to reading it. When You Look Different in Real Life came out though, I was immediately intrigued by the premise. With its theme of “docu-reality”, I expected a drama-filled teenage story, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover a quiet, more character-centered story.

Though we follow the story through Justine’s narration, we get a great look on the four other kids who were part of the documented group. Each with a different personality, each with different secrets. Nothing is revealed all at once, and while the revelations at the end weren’t unexpected, I felt like the author had made it more about the journey to the truth than about the revelations themselves.

As I mentioned before, the story wasn’t about the twists and the drama, which made the book a little uneventful – but not in the bad way! This gives us a deeper, more intimate look into the five characters’ life, especially Justine. A lot happened in the five years since the last movie, and in a way, we get to know the characters at the same time Justine gets to know them once more.

The friendships are definitely what makes the book, too. Sure, there’s a bit of romance, but it’s such a small part of the story it’s almost an afterthought. It’s refreshing, really, to have books where teenagers still think about other things than romance.

All in all, You Look Different in Real Life was a really pleasant surprise. I devoured the book quickly and reached the end feeling satisfied with the conclusion. Now, all I need is to go back to the bookstore, and get myself a copy of The Beginning of After!
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