From Alison Cherry, author of Look Both Ways and Red, comes a terrific story that's "too fun to miss" (USA Today) about two sisters and one big question: how do you know who’s for real?
When Miranda discovers her boyfriend, Samir, cheating on her just after her college graduation, her sister, Claire, comes up with the perfect plan. They’ll outshine Miranda’s ex on Around the World, a reality TV show on which fame-obsessed Samir is already scheduled to compete.
Claire expects the game to be simple: all they need to do is race around the world faster than Samir and they’ll win a million bucks. But the show has a twist, and Claire is stunned to find herself in the middle of a reality-show romance that may be just for the cameras. In a world where drama is currency and manipulation is standard, this summer could end up being the highlight of her life . . . or an epic fail forever captured on film.
“Fresh, fun, and packed with adventure.” —VOYA
“A sweet and funny story of sisters bonding.” —Publishers Weekly
“A comic romp with considerable wisdom on the side.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Funny and lighthearted, this novel nevertheless delivers truth in tender ways.” —Booklist
About the Author
Alison Cherry, author of Red, For Real, Look Both Ways, and The Classy Crooks Club, grew up in a suburb of Chicago and graduated from Harvard. She is a professional photographer and worked as a lighting designer for theater, dance, and opera productions for many years. During that time, she spent six months in the magical, exhausting world of summer stock theater, where everyone works 120 hours a week and survives on a mysterious elixir of caffeine, sugar, and adrenaline. Eleven years later, she’s still trying to catch up on sleep. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Follow @alison_cherry on Twitter and @alison_cherry on Instagram
Read an Excerpt
On the tiny screen of my phone, I watch Jayden Montoya grill grubs over a campfire. It’s hard to hear much of anything over the noise of the party inside, and I can barely make out the sizzling, popping sounds the grubs make as they sear on the car door he’s using as a hibachi. As Jayden reaches in with a pair of eyelash curlers to select a snack, the firelight ripples over his chiseled abs and biceps. So far, he’s spent the whole episode wearing only a pair of low-slung shorts. The show’s producers have probably forbidden him more clothing to drive up ratings. Not that I mindJayden isn’t exactly the smartest one on the island, but he’s by far the best eye candy. I wish I were watching this on a real television. I fear I’m missing nuances of his six-pack.
The camera zooms in on Jayden’s tanned, stubbled face as he pops the grub into his mouth and chews, and I’m impressed that he doesn’t even flinch. Then again, he’s been eating them all season, so he’s probably used to it by now. I’ve heard they taste like chicken with an undertone of almonds, if you can get over the texture.
As Jayden goes for a second grub, someone reaches over my shoulder and snatches my phone out of my hand. I spin around to find my sister, Miranda, standing on the step behind me, the porch light glowing through her wavy blond hair like a halo. “There you are,” she says. “I’ve been looking all over for you. What are you doing?”
I give her my best nonchalant shrug. “Just getting some air.”
Miranda stares down at my phone with a combination of horror and fascination. “Ew, Claire, is he eating bugs? What is this?”
“The finale of MacGyver Survivor. It’s that show where people have to survive on an island by making tools and shelter and stuff out of things like Xerox machines and garlic presses and bowling pins and”
One of her eyebrows goes upI’ve always wished I could do that. “You’re watching reality TV now? Don’t you want to celebrate my graduation?”
“Of course I do. I’m just . . . taking a break.” I had intended for the break to last until Miranda was ready to leave, but she doesn’t need to know that.
My sister sighs. “Come back inside,” she says more gently, sitting down next to me on the steps. “Everyone’s dancing. You’ll have fun, I promise.”
Maybe that’s Miranda’s definition of fun, but it’s the farthest thing from mine, and she knows it. The very thought of dancing in a crowd of strangers makes me want to vomitI can’t even bring myself to waltz with my dad at family weddings. “I’m perfectly fine,” I say. “Go enjoy the party.”
“You shouldn’t be out here alone. I can’t keep an eye on you this way.”
“I don’t need a babysitter. It’s not like anyone’s going to attack me. I’ve been out here half an hour, and nobody’s even talked to me.”
“If you came in, you could meet some new people.” The edge of pity in her voice makes me cringe. She’s probably remembering the time before she started college, when I was so painfully shy that she was basically my only friend. It’s been a really long time since that was the case, but in my sister’s world, my small, tightly knit group isn’t nearly enough. To her, you’re doing something wrong unless everyone wants to hang out with you.
“Miranda, I suck at parties,” I say. “I don’t know why you even brought me.”
She drops my phone back into my lap. “I brought you ’cause I wanted to hang out with you, silly. And what else were you going to do tonight, sit in the hotel with Mom and Dad?”
When I don’t answer, Miranda nudges my shoulder with hers and puts on her best pleading face, her big blue eyes widening to cartoon-character proportions. It’s the look she always used to give me when she’d eaten all her Halloween candy and wanted me to share mine. “Come on, Clairie, please? I barely even got to see you this weekend with all the commencement stuff.”
It’s true, I’ve hardly seen Miranda since my parents and I arrived in Vermont. To be honest, I haven’t seen much of her since she left for Middlebury four years ago. Except for a few days here and there, she’s spent all her school vacations backpacking with friends and boyfriends and her summers teaching English in exotic locations. I was hoping for a few hours alone with her this weekend, but as usual, there hasn’t been time.
“Plus, Samir and I leave for Brooklyn tomorrow, and you guys haven’t hung out at all,” Miranda continues. “How can I move in with a guy who doesn’t have the Little Sister Stamp of Approval?”
I can’t tell whether she actually wants my opinion of Samir or not, so I try to be diplomatic. “I talked to him for a minute when we got here,” I say. “He seems really . . . charismatic.” When I spotted him in the kitchen half an hour ago, my sister’s boyfriend was swirling his four-dollar box wine around in an actual wineglass and talking about how “print is no longer a viable form of storytelling in this modern age.” He seemed to be delivering most of his monologue to his own reflection in the kitchen window. As I slipped out the back door, I heard a girl telling her friend that Samir had his genius-level IQ tattooed on his arm.
Miranda doesn’t notice the distaste in my voice. “He’s brilliant onstage. Did I tell you he’s the only person in the whole theater program who had more than one agent come see him in Angels in America?”
I know I should keep my opinion to myselfit’s not like I have to date the guy. But Miranda has a history of choosing boyfriends who aren’t nearly good enough for her, and it sucks to see her doing it again. “I heard him talking earlier about how print is dead,” I blurt out. “Has he not noticed that you’re a creative writing major? Isn’t your own boyfriend supposed to support you?”
My sister smiles and shrugs. “It’s fine, it’s not personal. He just really believes in what he does. And hey, you guys will have tons to talk abouthe just found out that he and his brother got picked to do some race-around-the-world reality show on LifeLine. You watch all those race shows, right? Maybe you could give him some pointers on eating bugs or something.” She stands up and holds out her hand to me, and the porch light glints off the silver rings she’s wearing on every finger. “Come inside with me and talk to him, okay? Just for a little while? It would mean a lot to me.”
I know from experience that Miranda won’t give up without a fight. And if I go inside with her, she’ll probably do most of the talking, anyway. My sister’s been picking up conversational slack for me since we were little kids, and it’s a pattern we still fall into when we’re together. All I’ll have to do now is smile, nod, and try not to say anything stupid. Hanging out with Miranda, her pretentious boyfriend, and a swarm of drunk, dancing college grads isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s still better than not hanging out with her at all.
“Fine,” I say. “I’m coming.”
I glance at my phone one last timethe three finalists on MacGyver Survivor are having a fish-gutting contestand drop it into my bag. Miranda pulls me up, and I brush the splinters from the porch steps off the butt of my jeans.
The party has gotten significantly louder and more crowded since I escaped to the back steps. I hang on to Miranda’s shoulder as we work our way into the packed living room and snake through a sea of grinding bodies and beer breath and hands wielding red plastic cups. One of those generic pop songs about falling in love in the summer is blasting on the stereo, and my sister manages to sway her hips in time with the beat while she’s walkingI had no idea that level of coordination was even possible. As she exchanges greetings with every single person we pass, squeezing outstretched hands and kissing cheeks, I let my hair fall over my face and do my best to remain invisible. It works, and nobody makes eye contact with me or asks who I am.
My sister stops in the middle of the room and cranes her neck to see over all the people pressing together and spinning apart. “Samir was in here earlier, but I don’t see him now,” she calls over her shoulder. I can barely hear her over the thumping bass. “I’m going to see if he’s in his room, okay? It’ll only take a second. Stay right here so I’ll know where to find you.” I can’t believe she’s about to leave me alone after dragging me in here but I nod, and she heads for the stairs.
I quickly discover how ridiculously uncomfortable it feels to stand still in the middle of a mass of dancing strangers. Everyone else seems to be moving together like a single sweaty, pulsating organism, but I keep getting bumped around pinball-style by stray hips and butts. For one insane moment, I try to streamline the process by dancing along with them, but as soon as I start thinking about it, I’m paralyzed with awkwardness. I watch a skinny girl to my left undulate against a tall, shirtless guyshe doesn’t seem to be having any trouble, even in her four-inch heels. How is it that everyone but me inherently knows how to dance? Am I missing part of a chromosome?
The skinny girl notices me staring as I clumsily shift from side to side, and she shoots me a what are you gaping at? look. It’s clearly time to abandon ship, regardless of Miranda’s instructions. Being short has its advantages, and I manage to squeeze into a long corridor crowded with girls in filmy dresses waiting for the bathroom. Then I see the comforting flicker of a television beckoning from the room at the end of the hall, and my knotted muscles start to relax as I make my way toward it.
On the screen, a peroxide blonde is flinging men’s clothes out the window of a McMansion while shouting a steady stream of bleeped expletives. I recognize her as Chastiti, one of the four trophy wives from Sugar Daddies. In front of the TV, two guys and a girl are sprawled on a ratty orange sofa that’s leaking stuffing the consistency of cotton candy. The whole room has an acrid smell, and I spot a bong shaped like a pair of boobs on the coffee tableclassy. Nobody has heard me come in, and I stand very still in the darkness, trying to keep it that way.
“This show is so stupid,” says the guy on the left. “Who watches this crap?”
“You’re watching it, dumbass.” The guy on the right chucks his plastic cup at his friend’s head, and a fine rain of beer spatters the carpet.
“Yeah, but, I mean, do people watch it for real? Like, every week?”
“Somebody must, or it wouldn’t still be on,” the girl says. “This is, like, the third season.”
“It’s the fourth,” I hear another voice say, and it takes a minute before I realize with abject horror that it’s mine. Well done, brain, with your endless store of TV trivia and inability to let an error stand uncorrected. So much for invisibility.
All three people on the sofa turn and stare at me blearily, and a heavy silence stretches out for five seconds, then ten. It quickly becomes unbearable, and I start babbling to fill the space. “I think a lot of people watch this kind of show ’cause they want to feel better about themselves,” I say. “It’s really cathartic to see other people making horrible choices, you know? And it’s always nice to see someone who has the shoes you want, or the house you want, or the boyfriend you want, or whatever, but who still objectively sucks as a human being, so you can be like, ‘Sure, she’s prettier and richer than I am, but I’m still superior.’ ”
All three of them continue to stare; the guy on the right’s mouth is hanging open a little. “Hi,” I finish lamely. Thank God the room is dark enough that nobody can see me blushing the color of a raw steak.
“Do you like this show?” the guy on the left asks, completely missing the point. His eyebrows almost touch in the middle, like two caterpillars making out.
“No, II want to work in television. Some reality shows are actually good. Not this one, obviously.” On the screen, Chastiti screams, “If you ever bleeeep bleeeep me over again, I will cut your bleeeep bleeeep off; don’t you think I won’t!”
Nobody says anything for a minute. Then one of the guys on the couch asks, “Who are you?”
“You don’t go here, do you? You’re, like, twelve.”
I draw myself up to my full, unimpressive height. “I’m eighteen. And no, I don’t go here.” I don’t tell them I’m only a senior in high schoolit’s embarrassing to be a year older than most of my class, but I was still too shy to speak to strangers the year I should have started preschool. “I’m Miranda’s sister,” I offer instead.
“You’re her sister? Seriously?”
I feel my cheeks grow hotter, if that’s even possible. I know what these people are thinkingI’ve seen that same expression reflected back at me all my life. How could this girl, this short, dark-haired, socially challenged girl with the glasses, be related to gorgeous, willowy, outgoing Miranda? I watch them search me for some sign of my sister’s grace, her unique sense of style, her warm, breezy way of putting everyone she meets at ease. They don’t find it. I got all the awkward genes in the family. And all the spouting-media-theory-at-total-strangers genes, apparently.
“Seriously,” I say. For some reason, it comes out sounding like an apology.
As if to prove that we actually are related, Miranda comes barreling into the room just at that moment and grabs my hand so tightly it’s painful. This is not the happy, bubbly Miranda of ten minutes ago; she’s wild-eyed and breathing hard, and the glow of the television reveals tearstains on her cheeks. I’ve never seen my sister lose control like this in public. Something must be very wrong.
“Come on,” she says, her voice choked with anger. “We have to leave. Right now.”
“Mira, what happened? Are you okay?”
Miranda drags me out of the room without answering. We rush down the hall and past the bathroom line, and a chorus of whispers swirls in our wake. I clutch my Doctor Who tote bag to my side to avoid whacking people as we stampede through the living room. “What’s going on? Why are we”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For those readers with an older sister, this book will definitely hit home. Eighteen year old Claire looks up to her big sister Miranda as much as any little sister would. And such a devoted sister would also go to great lengths to protect her sister, especially in the case of heartbreak. When Miranda catches her boyfriend, Samir, cheating, Claire steps in and vows revenge, or at least embarrassment. With today's generation, the best way to embarrass a guy is through social media, and Claire chooses the next best thing: reality TV. Claire and Miranda enter a contest in which Samir has previously entered.
Can we talk about the cover for a moment? It's pretty. It gives off a very Thirteen vibe. But I think it doesn't do this book justice. Besides two girls, it doesn't tie into this book in any way. I'm a cover person. I will go for a book more because of the cover than the blurb. So I was surprised whenever I read For Real. It was nothing like what I expected because the cover just doesn't work for this story. Enough digressing from this review. Regardless of the cover, For Real was such a good read. As an only child, it made me feel like I had missed out on having a sister. Romance wasn't the focus for me. The relationship between Miranda and Claire was what I got invested in. At times it was tumultuous and I wanted to shake them both. But by the end of the book, I was over the moon happy to see how Alison Cherry had evolved and shaped their relationship. It was beautiful! Okay. Much like reality television, which this book relies heavily on, For Real was full of drama and crazy twists and turns. After I got to about fifty percent, all of my ideas about what was going to happen went out the window. I just settled in and enjoyed the plot. And what a doozy it was! Not only does the relationship between the two sisters grow, the sisters themselves grow. Alison Cherry did an excellent job at development all around with this book. It has made me excited to see what else she writes in the future! If you need a break from the run of the mill YA contemporaries, For Real is an excellent choice! **I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review with no compensation.
This was the first time I've stayed up way too late to finish a book in a whiiiile. But it was really fun, with a great, well-executed premise; fun, layered characters; solid character development; and a great sisterly relationship that made me wish mine were here to hug. Really well paced, though to be honest I would've happily read another hundred pages. One of those rare books that's unputdownable simply by virtue of being *that* enjoyable.
Despite the enormous quantity of reality tv that are throw on us daily I find interesting that "For Real" is the first book that I read about this theme - and like what it's show on tv, this book delivers a quickly, mindless read that will make you entertained for hours without noticing it! Claire our main character stars the book pretty naive and at some points she made just blank stare at the pages of my e-reader because of some things she was thinking/doing, through the entire book she is trying to pass as a mature person but the way she acts (keeping her feelings from her sister & not having an honest conversation with her) is really childish. Honestly the entire relationship between Claire and Miranda is very childish, I get the older sister wanting to protect the younger one but oh boy did Miranda pissed me off so many times, they both should have just sat down and talked through their problems. We sorta of do have an happy ending for their relationship but I wasn't sold on that - they had major problems and never worked on them. Other relationship that leaved me unsatisfied was Claire and Will's. Like I said above Claire is pretty naive from the start until almost the end of the book but there are times that I just rolled my eyes so much because of the level of immaturity from her character, it was like she needed to pass through the same things over and over with her sister and her crush to finally get the memo - let's just say I was never on board for this ship and am glad for that. Overall this book was quickly, at some points even laugh out loud funny but the impressions will not last long enough, just like last season of whatever reality show you watch.
I read this book as January's pick for the Bookbusters book club and this book surprised me. I went in thinking it'd be an okay book, but I didn't expect myself to devour it as fast as I did. In some ways I am similar to the main character Claire and as I read I felt some of what she was feeling. I loved that! Feeling so connected with a character is pretty cool. For Real is a fun, different, quick Summer read.
I read For Real in one day because I could NOT put it down. It was so much fun! It was a quick and easy read that made me giggle several times. I was stressed out during the week I read this book and it did a great job in relieving some of that stress. While it could've used more depth in order for me to connect to the story more, I did find the sister focus refreshing. I loved the growth that they went through. It was also nice how Claire and Miranda's relationship was the most important part of the novel and the romance had a much smaller importance. Overall, For Real was a really nice read! It was the perfect book for me to read while under the stress of homework and upcoming finals. *I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Ahhh. :) That was perfect. Exactly what I needed to get me relaxed and smiling again. Sometimes books are heavy and take a lot out of me emotionally. Not this one. It was my guilty pleasure type of story, the kind that causes me to smile throughout and leaves me with happy feelings when I finish it. Claire’s sister, Miranda, walks in on her boyfriend in a compromising situation. She’s extremely upset, as is Claire. No one messes with her sister. So the two girls decide that revenge is the best option to deal with this situation. They find out that Miranda’s exboyfriend is going to be on a reality tv show, and they set out to make sure they too can be on this show and beat the cheating exboyfriend, and embarrass him as much as possible in the process. Of course the producers are more than happy to hear about a drama-filled revenge story, and quickly cast the two sisters on their show. I’m not a huge reality tv fan, but there are a few that I’m usually found watching. The Bachelor, especially. It’s like my hidden guilty pleasure. Yes, I’m aware that reality tv is anything but reality… but it’s still entertaining. For Real is that exact type of story. It very similar to The Amazing Race, yet there’s also a love component thrown in. So as the contestants are racing across the country, finding cards to tell them their next destination and accompany activity, they are also thrown into romantic situations in hope of finding a love connection along the way. Fun, right?! :) I loved Claire! That girl had spunk! Though somewhat socially awkward and inexperienced when it comes to the opposite sex, she sprung to life and stepped up when it was needed. No one was going to screw over her sister, not if she had anything to do about it. Miranda seemed to look down on Claire a lot and point out her flaws, though most of them were flaws she had as a young child and not necessarily things she was dealing with at the current time. Miranda had great difficulty accepting that Claire has grown up quite a bit and no longer needs to be taken care of… and at times, walked all over by her sister. But Claire didn’t let this hold her back. She used these thoughts and actions of her sister’s to encourage her to grow as a person, become stronger, and beat what had to be beaten. I loved her character so much! Claire meets one of the other contestants early on and quickly acknowledges her feelings for him. He’s sweet, kind, and has the smiley eyes of a God. She can’t help but feel butterflies when he looks at her. She wants nothing more than to be his teammate and win this race with him… as well as win his affection. But during this game there are times when team members are able to “steal” other team members. Though Claire was determined to stay with Will indefinitely, other contestants had their own ideas. “I can’t believe she’s separating us,” I say to Will. “This sucks.” “She’s probably just intimidated by the hazardous level of awesome radiating from our lane.” There were several games that really challenged Claire physically, as well as emotionally. I loved how each obstacle Claire tackled wasn’t just for the game… it was also a huge accomplishment in her life. I wriggle out of my jeans and toss them onto a deck chair. And then I join Will at the pool’s edge, holding my head high like Dominique would. Who cares if I have a shoelace tied around my head like the biggest dork in the world? Who cares if my butt is covered in neon-colored smiley-faces? If I act like I’m the hottest thing ever, like nothing I’m doing is ridiculous or scary, maybe everyone else will be fooled.” This story was SO MUCH FUN!! It was exactly what I needed, and I’m so happy I decided to grab it when I did. If you’re looking for a quick, cute, carefree type read that’s just FUN, I’d definitely recommend giving this a try. Though this is my first Alison Cherry book, it definitely won’t be my last. (Thanks to Delacorte Press & Alison Cherry for the review copy!)
DO NOT READ THE TRADE REVIEWS! I went into this book knowing only that it was about sisters and reality television, and THOROUGHLY enjoyed it as a result. If you go in knowing much more of the plot, you won't like it as much, trust me. A very cute, very timely novel. Recommended for high schoolers especially.