Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Format: E ARC from NetGalley
Number of Pages: 288
Laura Corbett and Damian White are loners, and not by choice. Kids make fun of smart, sarcastic Laura for her weight and artistic Damian for his tendency to sweat through his shirts. Calista Getz, however―well, everyone agrees that Calista is the prettiest girl in the whole school. Maybe even the whole state. Let’s just say that she sits at the popular lunch table. Laura and Damian don’t.
But when Calista wakes up just before the school dance with the BIGGEST pimple she has EVER seen right in the middle of her face, and her attempts to hide it backfire spectacularly, Laura and Damian are the only ones who don't ignore her. In fact, they seem to see not only past her pimple but past her popularity, too. Together, they'll challenge the school's status quo in this hilarious, heartfelt novel The Real Us, by Tommy Greenwald.
Each chapter of The Real Us is written as one day of the week leading closer to the first dance of the school year, alternating between Calista, Damian, and Laura. Calista is pretty, popular, friends to Ellie and Ella, who follow her around and think that she and Patrick would make the cutest couple because they're the most popular kids in school. Damian was the new kid in school last year, he's an artist, kinda awkward and shy because of a medical condition called hyperhidrosis that causes excessive sweating. To compensate, he wears a red jacket all the time and visits the nurse's office to change out his shirt during the day. He ends up enduring quite a bit of teasing from Patrick's friend Will but tries very hard to not let it get to him. Laura and Callista used to be the best of friends, they still play soccer on the same team, but now Laura's friends with fellow soccer player Rachel, who she has more in common with. At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like the alternating between Calista, Damian, and Laura's voice. The prologue sets things up as if this is a story about Calista, and yet it's also about the interactions and events that all three of them share. In the end, it really worked for me. Who would've thought a pimple could make things go so horribly wrong. Calista's cosmetic emergency leads her to try and conceal her pimple, but then the concealer causes her to break out in hives. To top things off, Damian ends up accidentally elbowing her in the face causing further bruising and swelling. Because of these events and the overall change in her looks, Calista's friends begin to shy away from her and now even nice guy Patrick isn't going to ask her to the dance. Calista begins to redefine who she thinks she is, who her true friends are and what is important to her in life, things like reading and playing soccer. I really liked Calista, she never came off as conceited or self-centered and seemed to genuinely care about those around her. Clearly, she was affected by Ellie and Ella turning their backs on her, but I liked that she found new friends, reconnected with Laura and the way she genuinely was being nice to Damian. The themes in The Real Us not only cover the idea of what a real friend is, it also shows how people are more complicated than they look on the outside, that our actions are important and that it shouldn't matter what other people think of us, they don't define who we are.
"These things don't know everything you know. I frown, "What things?" "Mirrors," she says. "They're just pieces of glass. They don't actually reflect anything about who we are. They're your friend one day, your enemy the next. You can't trust them."
**I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts.**
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is the author of the Charlie Joe Jackson series as well as its spin-offs and the Crimebiters! series, and is now looking forward to his next challenge.