Life Just Got Real
Sadie Robertson with Cindy Coloma
Howard Books / Simon & Schuster
Published on June 7, 2016
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About Life Just Got Real
Sixteen-year-old A.J. Smith grew up in backwoods Louisiana, repairing cars with her dad and hunting with her brothers. But when her dad dies, her mom drags the whole family to Nashville where everything is different—except A.J. And A.J. knows it will take everything she has to live original.
Kate Kelly grew up in Nashville’s best schools, jetting around the world with glamorous people and wearing clothes from her mom’s trendy boutique. But when A.J. Smith―a new girl from the sticks—shows up, suddenly she’s all the rage: her unusual sense of style, her accent, and especially her dumb converse high tops. Even Kate’s brother, Kaden, seems to be under the new girl’s spell. But Kate has bigger things to think about, including the reality show Real Life. Everyone says the show is her chance to make it big. But then the producers decide to bring A.J. into the show.
Because these girls are so different, the producers of Real Life know that their conflict will be television gold. So the cameras start to roll. Then Kaden asks A.J. to prom, Kate flips out, and things with Kate’s (almost) boyfriend Alex start unraveling fast—all on camera. As the producers try to stir up the drama, Kate’s idea of the perfect prom spins out of control. When Kate’s life goes disastrously wrong, it is A.J. who steps up to help—no questions asked. A friendship between the two girls just might grow—but only if they both live original and stay true to who God made them to be.
As a girl who also grew up peeking at engines with her dad, I loved that this is a book about a girl with mechanical tendencies! How fun. I loved AJ’s genuine character and her vulnerability. Both those things made it so easy to root for her as the story progressed.
I also identified with Kate’s driven, high-achiever nature. I liked how both girls were juxtaposed against each other not just within the frame of a reality show but also in their alternating points of view in the story.
In a couple of scenes, Kaden gets a bit pushy with AJ. While as a reader I believed in Kaden’s goodness and his good intentions toward AJ, I was uncomfortable with the way the story made his behavior seem like an admirable thing. She resisted or straight up said no she didn’t want to do something a couple of times and he kind of pushed until she caved. I don’t think this is a great model for teen relationships and can actually be a dangerous pattern. So I struggled with that.
The story explores some of AJ’s spiritual beliefs and the comfort she finds in church and Christian faith. So there’s more spiritual content here than in some other books by major Christian publishers that I’ve read lately. I loved seeing these elements grafted into the story but wished they played a role in the story’s resolution as well.
The plot got a little murky toward the three-quarter mark of Life Just Got Real. I’m not sure what the big conflict/final battle is exactly. I felt like the story sort of lost focus and became more event-driven at that point. The ending left me wanting to know more (in a good way), though I don’t see any evidence that there are plans for a sequel.
Readers looking for a clean reality show novel will want to put this one on their lists. If you liked Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos or liked the concept but wanted a clean alternative, Life Just Got Real should be on your reading list.
Major characters are white. The story takes place in Nashville and focuses on a wealthy white family and a poorer white family.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Brief kissing between a boy and girl.
AJ reflects on the change in her Christian life since her dad’s death and realizes she hasn’t prayed much lately. She begins attending church again and tries to make her spiritual life a priority. She also introduces Kaden to her church. He develops his own belief and mentions studying the bible. He also talks to his sister Kate briefly about believing in God and how maybe that’s what he’s been missing in his life up to that point. Kate wants to be supportive but doesn’t seem interested in spirituality.
A boy publicly humiliates a girl by saying some unkind things about her.
A boy gets drunk and says some ugly things about a girl publicly. He later apologizes for what he said and did.