Reality TV and environmental activism give a trendy spin to Collins and Rideout's (the Vivian Leigh Reid series) cheery fish-out-of-water romance. Selected to star in a reality show called "The Black Sheep," Kendra swaps her sterile, rule-bound Manhattan existence for the Mulligan family's hippie-ish and chaotic household in Monterey, Calif., where she spends nearly every waking moment being trailed by a TV crew. Despite this lack of privacy, Kendra manages to keep secret her prickly-at-first romance with the Mulligan's eldest son, Mitch, an aspiring marine biologist. Partly to impress Mitch, but mostly because she finds herself truly caring, Kendra becomes involved with a sea otter preservation group, and even organizes a demonstration to safeguard the animals' habitat. Meanwhile, the show's megalomaniacal producer Judy, in search of ever-higher ratings, manufactures a conflict that results in the viewing audience voting to decide if Kendra should divorce her parents. In a neat summation of just how unreal reality TV can be, her alleged desire for emancipation is broadcast to the nation in a statement composed entirely of quotes taken out of context. Kendra's bright and breezy first-person narration moves things along at a rapid clip and the larger-than-life personalities and plot are balanced by her heartfelt reflections on family and fame. Ages 12-up. (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Beth Karpas
Fifteen-year-old Kendra Bishop is a self-described banker-in-training living a dull, educational life that follows all the rules in her parents' Manhattan apartment. In a fit of despair and anger, she applies to a new reality television program, The Black Sheep, where teenagers switch homes. Soon reality-TV-producer Judy is sweeping Kendra away into Maya Mulligan's life, and Maya takes over Kendra's. It is off to Monterey, California, a bedroom shared with a ten-year-old sister, four brothers (including a very hot older brother named Mitch), hippy parents who proudly recount every protest, and a family fixation with all things otter. Kendra learns the hard way that reality TV is not as real as it seems as she tries to develop her own life and rules (The Black Sheep Rules) while Judy manipulates a story line for the American television audience. This fun book should enthrall most girls, whether or not they are reality-television fans. A typical coming-of-age story, the television twist makes it fresh and new. The reader keeps hoping for Kendra to find the strength to stand up to Judy, Lisa, and the bigwigs, and eventually she does. Maya feels one dimensional, but that is as much a product of Kendra's limited interaction with her and of the limited television footage as of the writing. A Black Sheep 2: Maya's Story would happily solve the problem.
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
What fifteen-year-old has not desperately wished at times to escape his or her family and live with another one that must be better than their own? A reality TV show, The Black Sheep, now makes that possible for some lucky winnerchosen on the basis of writing the most pathetic letter. And Kendra Bishop has succeeded beyond her wildest imagination! According to Kendra, her parents have been raising her to fit the "Banker Duplication Program" mold utilizing the rules they have compiled in the "Binder of Limitations and Harassment, or the BLAH." Swept up by a manipulative producer who knows that conflict and drama make for good TV, Kendra is whisked from her sterile and cultured Manhattan apartment to live with a chaotic and noisy California household headed by two as-yet-unmarried former environmental activist hippies. The real challenges arise not so much from sharing a single bathroom with a family of seven, or from defending her possessions from younger "siblings" who find inventive uses for her underwear in front of the TV cameras, or even from living with a ferret that only wants to sleep on her bed, but from trying to stand her ground against the machinations of producer Judy who turns everything Kendra does upside down in a single-minded pursuit of higher ratings. Kendra develops her own set of "Black Sheep" rules to help her find her way as she wrestles with typical teen angst issues and takes on saving the sea otters from greedy capitalists, but it's a battle of wit and wills until the very end. Punctuated by funny dialogue from Judy ordering her production crew around, this is a great send-up of reality TV in an entertaining and palatable coming-of-age romance.
KLIATT - Amanda MacGregor
Fifteen-year-old Kendra's life in Manhattan is rigidly controlled. Her parents keep their apartment looking like a museum, have a thick binder of rules they expect their daughter to follow, and are raising her to be an investment banker. In a fit of frustration, Kendra applies to be on a new reality show, The Black Sheep. Before she knows it, she's whisked off to California, where she will be living with a hippie family with six children. Kendra realizes her time in California affords her the opportunity to be someone she isn'tsomeone not controlled by her parents' rules. She adopts a new code, which she calls Black Sheepism, to help remind her to step out of her comfort zone and try new things. The overbearing producer of the show, Judy, hopes Kendra will stir things up and cause problems in her new home, but Kendra adapts well. The family she is staying with volunteers at the aquarium, and Kendra is surprised to find herself interested and involved in saving the otters. She's also interested in Mitch, the oldest child in the family, who hates the intrusion of Kendra and the show. With cameras following her every move, and manipulative Judy making sure the show advances certain storylines (no matter how unreal they may be, or how much Kendra fights them), Kendra wonders if the swap is worth the hassle. Kendra is an interesting, lively character, but the overlong plot slows the story down. Too many minor characters, like the neighbor Carrie and her male friends, don't offer anything to the story and just distract from the more interesting pieces. However, fans of reality television will enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes look at how a show is put together, and just how"real" Kendra's life is. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
School Library Journal
Fifteen-year-old Kendra, an only child, has grown up in a sterile and highly controlled Manhattan household. As she sees it, her distant parents, both bankers, are simply grooming her to assume their overprogrammed urban lifestyle. Frustrated, she enters and wins an essay contest that qualifies her to be a costar on a reality show, The Black Sheep , in which she changes places with a West Coast girl from a completely different type of family. The Mulligan household consists of a pair of aging hippies and their six children, one of whom is an attractive boy with a passion for saving threatened sea otters-a cause that Kendra quickly adopts. She discovers that it is difficult to be an amorous activist-and nearly impossible to find your true self-when you're being tailed 24/7 by a camera crew and a pushy producer. Light, predictable, happy-ending fare without much fizz.
Jeffrey HastingsCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kendra Bishop, stunned she's picked to be on The Black Sheep, a trading-places reality show, is helpless when brazen producer Judy Greenberg charges into her life with a camera crew in tow. Uprooted from her conservative New York City parents, Kendra is whisked to Monterey, Calif., to live with the Mulligan family. The aging hippie parents use a laissez-faire approach to child rearing, and Kendra's "siblings" simply march to different drummers. Part of the odd family is Mitch, a 17-year-old who is easy on the eyes but initially ignores Kendra. Any potential romance, more in Kendra's dreams than reality, is stalled by the camera crew constantly rolling tape and Judy waiting to pounce on any juicy gossip. Joining Mitch on a crusade to prevent a golf course from destroying the habitat of a group of otters, Kendra unintentionally becomes an activist. Although Judy's cameras love the corporate confrontation, this segment seems tacked on to the plot. However, Kendra is an admirable character who discovers inner strength while thrust in a sink-or-swim environment. Fans of Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series may migrate to this romantic comedy. (Fiction. YA)