From that time on, the world was hers for the reading....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lauren Barnholdt: Reality Chick

One of the things I love about Live Journal is the many authors who use it to blog. I've stumbled upon authors I don't think I would have heard about otherwise. I do my best to pick up their books at the library. Last week, I decided to grab Reality Chick by
Lauren Barnholdt


All-hour study fests . . . all-night parties . . .

Going away to college means total independence and freedom. Unless of course your freshman year is taped and televised for all the world to watch. On uncensored cable.

Sweet and normal Ally Cavanaugh is one of five freshpeople shacking up on In the House, a reality show filmed on her college campus. (As if school isn't panic-inducing enough!) The cameras stalk her like paparazzi, but they also capture the fun that is new friends, old crushes, and learning to live on your own. Sure, the camera adds ten pounds, but with the freshman fifteen a given anyway, who cares? Ally's got bigger issues — like how her long-distance bf can watch her loopy late-night "episode" with a certain housemate. . . .

Freshman year on film.

It's outrageous.

It's juicy.

And like all good reality TV,

It's impossible to turn off.

Confession: I don't like reality television. In fact, I hate it.

Okay, I watched "The Hills" for a few seasons. But it was just another TV show to me. It's scripted. It's fake. That's not reality.

I used to watch "Newlyweds," but it was part of my job. (The company I worked for was hired to market Jessica Simpson, 98° and, eventually, Nick Lachey-- and, yes, that man is brutally HOT in person!) I always say, "You couldn't pay me to watch that garbage." But, apparently, you can!

Still, when reality TV was officially launched by MTV's "The Real World" in 1992, I thought it was very cool. I loved watching this fishbowl experiment, swooned over Eric, and empathized with Julie (I was once the wide-eyed Southern girl thrown into the mix of a big, bad city). It was fascinating. It was genuine. Every reality show that followed has used the original cast as their prototype and exploited the hell out of it.

Reality Chick included a lot of those stereotypes-- wide-eyed innocent (Ally), manwhore (James), virgin (Simone), hot guy that every girl wants (Drew), and the token gay guy (Grant, who actually doesn't even live in the house but is Ally's best friend from high school).

As Ally, a freshman at Syracuse University, tells her story of reality television stardom, the narrative switches between "Now" and "Then." At first, she feels like she's been "set up" -- the show's attempt to create drama between her and her long-time boyfriend Corey, who is a basketball player at the University of Miami.

And there is drama. Lots of it. Hook-ups. Infidelity. Break-ups. Flirting. Alcohol. Backstabbing. All while the cameras follow Ally's every move.

Unlike reality television, however, some of the characters grow, evolve, and become likable at the end. Especially Ally. She realizes that the show didn't use any material she didn't hand to them and that most of her freshman struggles would have existed without the cameras following her every move.

All in all, a fun read!

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