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Literature / You Look Different in Real Life

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You Look Different in Real Life is a young adult novel by Jennifer Castle. Ten years ago, five kindergarteners - Justine Connolly, Rory Gold, Felix Cortez, Nate Hunter, and Keira Jones - starred in the documentary Five at Six. Five years ago, they starred in the sequel Five at Eleven. Now it's time to film Five at Sixteen. But the kids have changed a lot over the last five years, and not all in ways that they're happy with.

You Look Different in Real Life contains examples of:

  • The Bully: Nate was bullied in fifth grade by Aidan and Tony, two boys who tormented him over his devotion to his rabbit Nimbus. Things got so bad that Nate's grandfather visited Aidan's parents to rip them a new one. But the boys denied the bullying, and there wasn't enough proof, so neither was ever punished.
  • Creator Couple: In-universe example. Lance and Leslie, the creators of the documentaries, got married after Five at Eleven was filmed but before it came out.
  • Foreign-Language Tirade: Felix calls his mother to tell her that he and the others have taken off by themselves to follow Keira to New York City. Justine hears her screaming at him in Spanish.
    Nate: My Spanish must be better than I thought it was, because I got some of that and wow, I'm sorry, man.
  • Gayngst: Felix can't tell anyone he's gay because his family is extremely conservative. His father would kick him out of the house, and he thinks his mother would either die of a broken heart or commit suicide.
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: Nate is the product of a Teen Pregnancy by a guy who left town before he was born. He knows his father only from old photographs.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: Felix's family were undocumented for many years and worked hard to become legal citizens.
  • Leave the Camera Running: In Five at Six, Justine develops stomach cramps that turn out to be psychosomatic. Tests at the hospital find nothing wrong with her. During the scene where the doctor discusses the results with her parents, the camera stays on Justine the entire time while she colors in bed, slowly filling a whole page with orange crayon.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: The billboard for Nate's family farm shows a happy apple with a face, arms, and legs eating a smaller, less-evolved apple. Justine calls it the Cannibal Apple.
  • Make-Out Kids: When Justine was still with her ex, Ian Reid, people would yell at them to get a room.
  • Missing Mom: Keira's mom left when she was eleven. Her father broke the news to her on camera, resulting in a twenty-second shot of her crying. Critics called the scene exploitative.
  • Only Friend: Justine used to be Rory's only friend before Justine ditched her after Five at Eleven finished filming. Rory was eventually able to meet other friends through her interest in The House of Tudor.
  • Performance Anxiety: Justine gave up guitar when she was thirteen after a recital in which she couldn't properly play a song even though she knew it by heart.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: In-universe example. People used to refer to Justine and Ian as JustIan.
  • Poster-Gallery Bedroom: The protagonists attend a college party in a suite whose walls are entirely covered with posters.
  • Sensory Overload: While walking through Manhattan, Rory becomes increasingly overwhelmed. When some kids run into her a few seconds after a fire truck and an ambulance drive past, she screams, throws herself at the nearest wall, and curls up in a Troubled Fetal Position.
  • This Is Reality: Justine thinks, "This is not a soap opera, folks. This is my life."