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Watch Me (also known as Reality Chick) is a contemporary YA novel by Lauren Barnholdt. It was published by Simon Pulse US
Ally Cavanaugh thinks she has everything in control. She's about to move away to college, live in a house with new people and take part in a reality TV show, broadcasting her whole life to the world. She isn't worried about any of this as long as she still has her long distance relationship with high school sweetheart, Corey. What Ally doesn't factor in is how hard being away from home and living in a house with people she doesn't know will be.
Tensions in the house grow as everyone gets to know each other and as some of the housemates get to know each other a little too well. Ally doesn't know who she can trust anymore and that includes herself. After spending more and more time with the house hottie, Drew, she is unsure of her feelings and what she actually wants out of life. Could being on a reality show ruin everything she has worked so hard to achieve during high school?
What I thought
After reading Two-Way Street, another book by Lauren Barnholdt, I immediately wanted to read more from her. When looking through her books on Amazon, Watch Me was the one that stood out to me the most, due to the nature of the plot.
Ally, the main character, decides to try out for a reality tv show before heading off to college. The show itself is a mix between Big Brother and something like Jersey Shore. There is no prize money and no one is locked in the house but they do all live together and are filmed at all times. Now, there are so many reality TV shows around and I wondered how this would translate into a contemporary book. The Hunger Games also has a similar reality TV theme but set in a dystopian world so nothing like what Barnholdt has created.
Ally's situation, as well as her as a character, were really interesting. I'm not sure if I would have ever entered to go on a show like she did when starting college and moving away from home. Surely it would have been too much pressure to handle in one go but I have to say, I was impressed with the way she handled things to begin with. Not only does she have classes to go to but she also has to learn how to live with a bunch of people she has never met and people who have completely different personalities. The book is told through different views according to time; then and now. The start of the book states just how messed up Ally is after being on the show so right from the beginning, you know nothing is going to go smoothly and I liked this. I liked knowing that Ally was going to have to struggle and that she was going to have a hard time being in that situation.
My only real problem with this book is the fact that you know the love triangle is coming and I would have liked for it to have been a little bit more of a shock. Drew was a lovely character though even if I didn't get to know as much about him as I wanted to. As there is so much going on for Ally, he doesn't make a real appearance until part way through the book and isn't in it nearly enough. Drew had a lot going for him that would have made him amazing had the time been spent on his characterisation. He definitely would have been a guy I would have gone for myself due to his depth and compassion. Then there is Corey, Ally's long distance, high school sweetheart boyfriend. I cant say that I liked him very much really though. Being in a long distance relationship, I thought that he would have made more of an effort with Ally but he just came across as full of himself and like he didn't care either way most of the time. Because of this, I don't really get what Ally saw in him.
The secondary characters, mainly the other housemates, were fantastic. With such a range of personalities, forced together for a certain reason, there was a lot of humour. I loved the other girls who lived in the house and the fun they brought to Ally's life. Jasmine is a Hooters Girl/ stripper tryout and is so outgoing and loud. Her presence cant really be missed and she comes to life on each page. Simone is the quieter of the three girls and stays to herself to begin with but it is clear that she is a good friend and only wants what is best for everyone. This book would have been quite boring without them I think. James, the other guy housemate, was terrible but I loved him. I like characters who mix things up a bit and cause chaos so here, James did his job really well.
What I love most about Barnholdt's work is the language she uses. The teenagers are real. They do things teenagers actually do like go to parties and get drunk and sleep around at times. They swear frequently and say exactly what is on their minds. Now, while I know this sort of thing is not to everyone's tastes and that I can see parents of younger teens complaining about it, I think it is great! I hate to see teenagers, especially 18 year olds in books, shown to be something that they're not. I understand that it doesn't set the best standard but I don't see the point in shying away from the real world and that is exactly what Barnholdt portrays in her books and I have to applaud her for taking risks and showing what life is really like.
Watch Me will not be a book for everyone but I loved it and already want more from this amazing author!