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Reality Chick

Reality Chick

4.1 28
by Lauren Barnholdt

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

This reviewer freely admits it: She watched part of the first season of Survivor and one episode of Real World. That is her history with reality TV. But students who gather regularly for Laguna Beach might find this behind-the-scenes volume to be an enticing light escape. Meet Ally, a freshman at Syracuse University, who is cast to spend her first semester "having personal problems . . . broadcast to millions of strangers" with cameras 24/7, "pimping [her] out to the world" on a show called In the House. With housemates, classmates, assignments, and her long-distance boyfriend in Miami, average Ally journeys through four crucial months of her life, deciding on a major, navigating relationships, and learning the importance of moving on in life. The narrative alternates between chapters titled "Then" and "Now," setting up expectations for reflection. Although glib and imaginative, self-centered and self-referential, Ally is not particularly insightful or mature-perhaps the ideal persona for a reality series. Other characters begin as stereotypes, and some evolve. Readers are treated to many pop culture references, breezy dialogue, fashion commentary, and Ally's conversational voice, replete with frequent use of the "F" word and rife with references to "hooking up." While not "hilarious" as the book cover claims, Ally's creativity takes several genuinely delightful turns with imagined encounters/consequences, inviting readers to play along. First-time novelist and active blogger, twenty-six-year-old Barnholdt capitalizes on current preoccupation with reality programming. Joining the A-List and Gossip Girl genre of titillating pleasure versus substantive prose, this novel slides easily intothe beach tote. VOYA CODES: 2Q 4P S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Simon Pulse/S & S, 288p., Trade pb. Ages 15 to 18.
—Patti Sylvester Spencer
Children's Literature - Cindy L. Carolan
Ally can't believe that she is one of five Syracuse College freshman selected to star in a reality show called "In the House." She muses about how she was "set-up," as she is of average attractiveness and does not readily fit any other stereotype. Or does she? Readers are to glean from this statement that it is because she has a cute boyfriend who is a star basketball player at a different college and that the show's producers expect the couple to fizzle as a result of the separation. While one's interest may wane at the beginning of the book, readers will be hoping the best for Ally at the end. Friends abound: Grant, Ally's best friend who is gay, is woven in and out, and she forges new friendship with the other girls of her house, but where is Ally's family? They make a few cameo appearances but are noticeably absent throughout the majority of the book. One would imagine a fair amount of parental intrusion (good, bad, or otherwise) during this pivotal period in a young adult's life. The book includes the seemingly requisite but completely unnecessary nods to sex and inebriation. Redeeming qualities of the book include: a) portrayal of decisions to pursue a college major that hold a true interest, not one that is simply expected, b) mature handling by both interested parties of a long term relationship break-up, and c) chapter headings in a "Now" versus "Then" manner, adding a some interest to the fairly predictable writing. Not a necessary acquisition.

Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Reality Chick

By Lauren Barnholdt

Simon Pulse

Copyright © 2006 Lauren Barnholdt
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1416913173


The question people ask me most these days is "If you could do anything differently, what would it be?" This question is designed to accomplish one of two things:

  1. To make me break down. The press loves when anyone cries, screams, or loses control in any way. It's like that time Courtney Love crashed Kurt Loder's Madonna interview and Madonna totally lost her cool and started insulting Courtney and getting pissy. That interview made MTV's 25 Best Moments. The public eats up scandal, and therefore, so does the press.
  2. To get a scoop. Every reporter wants to be the first one to break the story, so they try to ask questions that will get you to talk. Notice how they don't ask, "Would you have done anything differently?" They avoid "yes or no" answers like Paris Hilton avoids the Olsen twins. Except, of course, when they ask if Corey and I are still talking. In that case, the "yes" or "no" response is enough of a scoop for them.

When you think about it, "What would you have done differently?" is a pretty shitty question to ask. I mean, even if I wanted to do anything differently, I couldn't, so having to think about it serves no purposeother than to drive me absolutely crazy. Which is why I don't. Think about it, I mean.

Well, not that much, anyway, because the truth is, I don't think I would have done anything differently, even if I could. I prefer to subscribe to that whole "everything happens for a reason" theory, mostly because the alternative is just too disturbing to think about. If everything doesn't happen for a reason, then we're all pretty much fucked, because each decision we make could be screwing up our lives forever.

No one wants to hear that, though. They all want me to have regrets, to wish I hadn't done certain things, to be upset about the stuff that happened. It's weird thinking people I don't even know are so interested in my life that they want to know who I'm dating or what I'm up to. It's also weird to think that a lot of these same people would love nothing more than to see me miserable about what happened during my time on the show.

The truth is, none of those people really know what went on these past three and half months. I'm not sure I even understand it all. The only thing I know for certain is that three months ago I was a completely different person. Which seems kind of crazy -- that everything can change in such a short amount of time. But maybe that's what life is, really -- just a bunch of small things that add up to one big thing. And even though sometimes you can't see it coming, you have no choice but to let it happen.


I'm the last person you'd expect to be out of bed when I don't have to be. My theory is that it's impossible to function properly without enough sleep, therefore getting up early is actually wasting your day being less than productive. So to find me waiting in line at eight in the morning for In the House auditions proves just how bad I want to be on the show. I know, I know, it's kind of corny to want to be on a reality TV show, but this is In the House. The king of reality TV. The show that launched Tansy McDonald's broadcasting career. She's the one that was on In the House: Tampa Bay. The blonde with the big chest? Now she does the TV Guide updates on its preview channel. Or used to.

"This is ridiculous, Ally," my friend Grant says, stomping his Timberland sandals on the sidewalk. "We're here an hour early and there's, like, fifty people in front of us." He shades his eyes from the sun and rises up on his toes, surveying the line in front of us.

"The lines for these things always move fast," I assure him, looking at the people around us and trying to get a sense of the competition.

"How do you know?"

"I read it somewhere," I lie. Grant is one of those people who gets super impatient and cranky. If he thinks we're going to be here for a while, he might decide to take off, and I really don't want to wait by myself. I'm not the best at doing things alone -- I always have to have someone with me. Like when I got my license, I had to take my brother Brian with me. And when my wisdom teeth came out, I made my boyfriend Corey skip his basketball practice and stay in the waiting room, even though the dental hygienist, Brandi, assured me that I would be okay to drive home on my own. Like I was really going to -- everyone knows girls whose names end in "i" can't be trusted. Last year, for example, Kristi McConnell was always trying to get in my boyfriend's pants -- she went by "Kristina" right up until the seventh grade, when she became "Kristi with an i" and lost all sexual integrity, i.e., the ability to stay away from other people's boyfriends.

"It's fucking hot," Grant says, taking a swig from the water bottle he's holding. "I thought Syracuse was supposed to be the snow capital of the world or some shit."

"Not in the summer, dork," I say, hitting him playfully on the arm and trying to distract him from his crankiness. "And it's not that hot out. Come on, this is going to be fun. Me, you, having an adventure . . . I wouldn't want to be here with anyone else." I link my arm through his and give him my most winning smile.

"Ally, you couldn't be here with anyone else." Grant says, and disentangles his arm from mine.

"That's not completely true," I tell him. "I could have come with Alicia Billings." This year In the House is doing a special season, called In the House: Freshman Year. They're filming the show at Syracuse College, so in order to even try out for the show, you have to be a member of their incoming freshman class. Rumor has it that the only reason SC allowed In the House to be filmed on its campus was because when MTV's Sorority Life took place at SUNY Buffalo, their applications and donations, like, tripled.

Anyway, Grant, Alicia Billings, and I are the only three people from our graduating class who are headed to Syracuse in the fall, and seeing as how I've never said a word to Alicia Billings and Grant and I are very good friends, it made more sense to come with him. Not to mention the fact that I don't think Alicia Billings has a car and we live in Rochester, which is about an hour and a half away from where the audition's taking place, at this bar in Syracuse called Dougie's.

Grant rolls his eyes and swats at a bee that's swarming around his head. "Fucking bees are here too?"

"Ohmigod, Grant, that guy behind us is totally checking you out," I say, grabbing his arm and tilting my head toward the blond cutie waiting in line behind us.

"Really?" he says, showing interest for the first time since we've been here.

"Totally," I lie for the second time in as many minutes. Grant is gay, and obsessed with any guy who shows the slightest interest in him. Actually, if you ask Grant, he'll tell you he's bi, but I've never seen him even look at a girl. Sometimes I think half the people who profess to be bisexual say they're bisexual because they think it sounds cooler than gay. It's almost trendy. Bi = Dave Matthews bootlegs, cool clothes, and spiked hair. Gay = Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Cher, and Andrew from Desperate Housewives.

The line starts shuffling forward at a little after nine o'clock. Grant and I are in the second round of kids, and at about nine thirty, we're led into the bar where we're seated at tables of four. A casting assistant with pink hair places a box of pencils and four pieces of white paper down on our table.

"Fill these out," she instructs shortly, turns on her heel, and is gone.

"She was pleasant," Grant says, rolling his eyes again and grabbing a pencil.

"Hey, Grant," I say, jabbing him in the ribs with my elbow. "We're in a bar. Haha." He looks at me the way Nick Lachey looked at Jessica Simpson when she asked him if she had fish or chicken. I try again. "Get it? We're not twenty-one. And we're in a bar. Fun, eh?"

He looks away and wordlessly starts to fill out his application. Geez. Talk about not wanting to have fun. I hope he knows he's really going to have a hard time making new college friends with that attitude.

I pick up my pencil and start to fill out my application, making sure every word is neat and precise. I read somewhere that presentation totally counts when it comes to applications. I think they were talking about job applications, but still.

Name: Ally Cavanaugh

Age: 18

Hometown: Rochester, NY

Hair Color: Dirty blond

Eye Color: Green

Height: Five feet, five and a half inches

Weight: Riiiiiggghhht. I'm not fat and I'm not skinny.

Why do you want to be on In the House:

Hmmm. What to write, what to write. Somehow "because I think it will be fun and I wouldn't mind being on TV to distract me from the fact that my boyfriend is going to school two thousand miles away" doesn't seem like the best answer. I mean, it's the answer that's true, but definitely not the one that's going to get me on the show.

I try to get a glimpse of what the girl next to me is writing. I see the words "enriching experience" before she catches me looking and covers her paper with her arm, a la third grade.

Enriching experience, my ass. Has she ever even seen the show? Last year everyone was naked in the hot tub with two of the girls kissing each other. And that was just the first episode. Not that I plan on kissing anyone -- girl or otherwise -- in a hot tub. Or anywhere, for that matter. I have a boyfriend.

I'm deciding to skip the "why do you want to be on the show" question for now when a bald man wearing a black polo shirt with the In the House logo on the pocket walks up to our table.

"Hi, guys, " he says cheerfully. "I'm Al. Just wanted to welcome you to the In the House casting call and see if anyone has any questions."

We all look at him blankly. How can we possibly have any questions? We just got here. Suddenly I have a thought. Maybe this is a test. You know, to see who among us has the personality they're looking for. Isn't that what they always say about In the House? That they're looking for the right mix of personalities? That they don't necessarily have to be the best-looking people (even though it seems every cast looks like a modeling lineup for Teen Vogue), they just have to be themselves.

"I have a question," I say to Al boldly.

"Yes?" he says.

"Who do I have to sleep with to get Colin's phone number?" I ask. I toss my hair over my shoulder flirtatiously. He looks at me blankly. "You know, Colin? From In the House Los Angeles?"

"Right," he says, clearly not amused. He walks away. Hmm. This is going to be harder than I thought.

Once the applications are filled out, we're herded into a group interview with a casting director. Thankfully, it's not the same one I made the sexual comment to. I look at it as a fresh start.

"Well," the new director says, looking over our applications. "Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Mike Marino, and I'm the head casting director, as well as executive producer of In the House." Wow. These people don't fuck around. When they want a job done, they send the head honchos. Mike takes another glance at our applications and then attaches them to the clipboard he's holding. That's it for our applications? So much for agonizing over what to write. "The reason you're put in groups like this is so we can get an idea of how you interact with other people. Interaction with others is, as you know, the most important aspect of being a cast member. Now before we get started, are there any questions?"

This time, I keep my mouth shut. Apparently sexual quips aren't the way to score a spot on the show.

"Actually, Mike, I have more of a comment than a question," the Asian girl in our group says. Fool. "Here." She thrusts a manila folder at him. "This is my headshot and resume." Headshot and resume? What is she, looking for a spot on The Apprentice? The ad for the casting call didn't say anything about needing a picture or a resume. I don't have a resume. And the only picture I have with me is a copy of my senior picture that's been in my wallet since before graduation. I was supposed to give it to Lindsay Abrusia, but I never got around to it. On the back, it says, "Hey Linds! It was great getting to know you this year! Have a great summer and good luck at UMass! Keep in touch, Love ya lots, Ally."

"Sure," Mike says, pushing the folder into his gray messenger bag without looking at it. You can tell the Asian girl's pissed, but she tries not to show it.

"So," Mike continues, "Why doesn't everyone introduce themselves, and tell us something about yourself." He scans the clipboard in front of him. "Tell us your name, where you're from, and your most embarrassing moment." Most embarrassing moment? That's his idea of telling something about ourselves? When you meet new people, don't you usually tell them your name, where you're from, and maybe a hobby or two? Definitely not something as personal as your most embarrassing moment.

"I'll go first!" the Asian girl announces, and everyone else breathes a sigh of relief. She adjusts her black button-up shirt, smoothes her hair, and smiles. I look around, thinking maybe they're filming us already, but there's no camera in sight. "My name is Jill Bliss," she says, "I'm eighteen years old, and I came all the way from Scranton, Pennsylvania, for a chance to be on In the House!" By the end of her declaration, she's almost screeching. I have this crazy vision of her in a tiara and sash. "My name is Jill Bliss, Miss Pennsylvania!"

Everyone in the group stares at her blankly. "And your most embarrassing moment?" Mike prompts.

"Well," Jill ponders, pulling a strand of her hair like it's the most important question she's ever been asked. "I guess it would have to be last year, at my sister's bachelorette party." She looks around, making sure she has our attention. "You see, in the Korean culture, we tend to be very reserved." Grant and I catch each other's eye across the table, and I can tell we're both thinking about Amy Lee, a Korean sophomore at our school who got in trouble for giving Mike Hern a blow job in the auditorium during study hall. Her defense was that in her culture, women were expected to please their men, and when Mike wanted a blow job, she had to give it to him. I bite my lip to keep from laughing.

"So my sister has a male stripper come, of course," Jill says. "And after he gets down to his G-string, he picks me up and throws me over his shoulder!" She looks at us expectantly. "It was completely humiliating! A Korean girl is really more affected by things like that. Korean women are very conservative and reserved. Which is why I think a lot of girls in my high school treat me differently."

"How so?" Mike asks her, and to my surprise, he looks intrigued. Doesn't anyone else think her most embarrassing moment was totally lame?

"Well," Jill says slowly. "It's like people have a stereotype about you if you're Asian. They think you're subservient to men, and that you're very conservative, and so that's the way they treat you. They don't expect you to stand up for yourself or know what you're talking about. I'm hoping that people at college will be a little more open-minded." Does this girl have a screw loose? Didn't she just say she was conservative and reserved?

"Maybe," I say, before I can stop myself, "people treat you differently because you make such a big deal about the fact that you're Korean."

She looks at me like I'm a piece of gum on her shoe. "I'm sorry?" she asks sweetly, but it's one of those sweet voices that you know isn't good, like when your mom says, "Oh, sweetheart, be a dear and help your old mother by cleaning out the entire garage."

Shit. I clear my throat. "I just think that maybe you bring up the fact that you're Korean, which forces people to notice it about you. I mean, I would never have even thought about the fact that you're Asian if you hadn't mentioned it. But when you bring it up and start talking about it constantly, it forces people to focus on it."

She glares at me. Lovely.

Casting interview, an evaluation:

Number of sexual remarks made that have fallen ridiculously short of their goal: one.

Number of people I've pissed off with my big mouth: one.

Chances of getting on the show: slim to none.

Yup, right on track.

"And you are . . . ?" Mike asks, turning his chair toward mine.

"Oh, um, I'm Ally. Ally Cavanaugh."

"And Ally, why don't you tell us your most embarrassing moment?" Great Now thanks to my big mouth, I have to go next. I don't want to go next. In fact, I don't really want to go at all.

"Well," I say slowly, debating whether I should tell them my real most embarrassing moment, which I've never told anyone, or my fake most embarrassing moment, which I haven't made up yet. Then I realize that anything I make up is most likely going to be as lame as a stripper throwing you over his shoulder at a bachelorette party, and since I just told off Ms. Conservative, I have to top her. So I go for the truth.

"My most embarrassing moment actually happened about a week ago, so it's funny you should ask me that, Mike," I say, smiling confidently. I read in a magazine article that using someone's name makes you seem like you're connected to them in some way, even if you've just met them. "See, my boyfriend Corey is away at school already. He actually had to leave about two weeks ago -- he's a basketball player at the University of Miami, and his team had to go early for practice." I smile, like I'm totally cool with the fact that Corey's far away, even though I've cried myself to sleep every night since he's been gone. "We've been spending a lot of time on the phone, of course, but when you're used to seeing someone every single day, the phone just isn't the same. So about a week ago, I was feeling a little, um, horny." I almost stop myself. There's something about saying the word "horny" out loud to a bunch of strangers that's kind of sick. Especially if you're using it to describe yourself.

"Yes?" Mike says, leaning forward. I look around the group and see they're all hanging on my every word, even Grant, who's never heard this story.

"So, um, we were on the phone," I say, "and we started, you know, having phone sex."

Mike looks amused, and I gain some confidence. "So I was getting kind of, um, you know, loud, and my mom heard me. So she called from her room, 'Ally, are you okay?' and I was, like, 'Um, yeah, Mom, I'm fine,' and she was all, 'Okay . . . are you alone?" By now, everyone is laughing. Except Jill. "She never mentioned it the next day, but it was still really humiliating."

"How long have you and your boyfriend been together?" Mike asks.

"Almost two years," I tell him, and he writes something down on his clipboard.

"How does he feel about you trying out for In the House?"

"He's cool with it. He's usually really supportive of everything I do," I say. Which is true. Corey is usually supportive of everything I do, but Grant and I just found out about the casting call yesterday, so it was kind of spur of the moment. When I mentioned it to Corey, I don't think he really expected me to get out of bed so early. "He's been pretty busy with basketball practice and everything, and this was kind of a last-minute thing."

Mike nods, looking at me with interest. After Grant and another boy tell their most embarrassing moments (having an Internet blind date ditch him after they met in person and tripping in front of everyone at graduation, respectively), Mike thanks us for our time.

As we're getting up to leave, Mike stops me. "Ally," he says, "can I talk to you for a second?"

Copyright ©2006 by Laura Barnholdt


Excerpted from Reality Chick by Lauren Barnholdt Copyright © 2006 by Lauren Barnholdt. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lauren Barnholdt was born and raised in Syracuse, New York, and currently resides in Waltham, Massachusetts. When she's not writing, she watches a lot of reality TV. Visit her website and say hello at laurenbarnholdt.com

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Reality Chick 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Being a college freshman is hard enough. There's homework to worry about, the dreaded freshman fifteen, guys, parties, and a lot of other things. When Ally Cavanaugh starts college she has one other thing to worry about, that most don't have to: cameras.

Ally's every move during her first semester at college is taped for the popular reality show, In the House. At first, it seems like a dream come true. Ally's show is being broadcast nationwide; she's practically a celebrity! She gets to live in an awesome house with her roommates, who don't seem too bad.

But soon, things start to turn around. Ally's faraway boyfriend is acting really distant, and she thinks that she may be developing feelings for her hunky roommate. Her escapades at a fraternity party are recorded for the entire world to see, including her parents!

In the House is Ally's reality check; how tough life can be sometimes, but to take it in strides. You never know what great things are in store for you around the corner!

REALITY CHICK by Lauren Barnholdt was a fantastic read. It was fun, fresh, and fabulous, with a great concept and flawless reality. REALITY CHICK is a must read for those looking to lighten up the new school year!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very good and it's storyline is so interesting. It ROCKS!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you love any kind of reality show (especially Real World) then you will most definitely love reading this book. While I was reading, I got so wrapped into it that I honestly felt as if I was watching a reality TV show...exactly what the author was trying to do! I was late for work one morning because I could not leave the house without finishing this book! That's how great it is!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this book, i never got bored!! I hope lots more amazing books come from Lauren Barnholdt. She really is a great author!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book will totally suck you into the life of Alley and the rest of the in the house cast! Couldn't put it down!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't say I was expecting an amazing book, but some of the dialogs in the book, especially in the beginning, were completely unauthentic and forced. The book did get better though and regardless of its typical plot it was a page turner.