Saturday, July 6, 2013

"You Look Different in Real Life"

Jennifer Castle's first novel, The Beginning of After, was named an American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults selection and a Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" Book.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, You Look Different in Real Life, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
"Justine," says Leslie. Her voice catches and sounds froggy. She clears it and tries again. "Tell me about a typical day for you."

"A typical day for me would be..." I pause, glad I remembered to start it off like that, so it will sound better when edited. "I get up. I go to school. After school I come home, or go to my dad's, or walk around Main Street, or hang out at the bakery with Felix." What else do I do? "I go online or watch movies in my room. Homework, of course." Wow. In other words, a typical day for me is a staggeringly boring pile of crap.

Leslie pauses, glancing at her notebook. I can't read her face. "Are you doing any afterschool activities?"

"Not at the moment."

"I thought you played guitar." She's tried to frame that softly, curious and floating, but it still hits hard.

An image jump-cuts into my head. I'm thirteen, seated on a small stage in a church basement without windows, sweating and suffocating from heat and all-over body panic. I'm holding a guitar There are dozens of faces fixed on me, including my parents and sister in the a back row. I'm playing "Scarborough Fair" and although I've been practicing this song for weeks and I know the chords by heart, my fingers aren't doing what they're supposed to. My voice is soft and scratchy, and the ages-old air inside the church seems to be swallowing it up.
I was pleasantly surprised to apply The Page 69 Test to You Look Different in Real Life, and see that, hey, this passage is quiet, but important! In subtle ways, it captures the essence of our main character and one of the book's big issues.

Our narrator Justine is one of five child subjects of a documentary film series that revisits their lives every five years, starting when they were in kindergarten. In the first two films, feisty, creative, big-dream-talking Justine was a breakout star. Now 16, she feels disconnected from her 11-year-old self; she feels disconnected with herself overall...and this is her journey. For me, You Look Different in Real Life is mainly a story about identity, and the various ways we can look at ourselves -- as well as the people around us -- and try to figure out who, exactly, we see. In this scene, filmmakers Lance and Leslie Rogers have arrived at Justine's house to shoot their first interview for the new film, and Justine must face the reality that in the last five years, something has smothered her spark. Justine has an "official" way of creating a then-and-now moment, but my hope is that readers will be inspired to ask themselves, "Am I the person I wanted to be five years ago? And if not, why not, and what can I do about it now?"
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Castle's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue