By Alison Cherry
Available now from Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)
I was pretty much sold on FOR REAL by the end of the first paragraph, when heroine Claire muses, "I wish I were watching this on a real television. I fear I'm missing the nuances of his six-pack." Claire is a reality-television addict, because she wants to work in TV herself and it is the great equalizing genre.
It's always been her weird hobby, but when her sister Miranda dumps her cheating boyfriend, Claire decides to help Miranda get revenge. It just so happens that a slot has opened up for two new teams on the reality show Sanjay's been bragging about appearing on. It's the perfect opportunity to humiliate him in front of the whole world.
The reality show Around the World takes clear inspiration from The Amazing Race with a dating-show twist. I loved all the descriptions of the contests and could've read even more of crazy faux-cultural activities enlivened by forced bonding. There's nice character work to back up the humor of the competitions. Most of the competitors only get a little shading, but there are hints of them having their own lives. Claire works on coming out of her bubble, falling for fellow contestant Wes, and redefining her relationship with her sister now that they're both adults.
FOR REAL was exactly the light and frothy read I needed when I picked it up. It's fun and effortlessly charming. The relationship between the sisters is terrific - it has realistic ups and downs, but they've always got each other's backs when the chips are down. This may be a short read, but it's a good one.
If you need a pick-me-up, I highly recommend FOR REAL. It's light fare well executed, like the best of reality shows. (And unlike many real-life dating reality shows, it remembers LGBT people exist, in a nice touch.) This one put a smile on my face as big as the smiles on the hardcover.