Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Big Brother IS Watching You…Or At Least Someone Is (+ Giveaway)

Earlier in the month, I shared my review for debut author Heather Demetrios' novel Something Real. It's the story of a girl who has lived nearly all of her life on television alongside her family on their hit reality TV show, and it's entertaining, heartbreaking and absolutely riveting. It's one of my favorite reads from February, and a book I'd highly recommend to just about everyone.

I've also had the pleasure of meeting Heather in person at her book reading at Powerhouse on 8th in Brooklyn. She's delightful, warm, a seasoned traveler and a great reader (because she read a few passages and had me wanting to read the book all over again!) 

I'm pleased to be able to welcome Heather on to the blog today, with a guest post that definitely got me thinking. I certainly hope you'll feel the same way!


Big Brother IS Watching You…Or At Least Someone Is
by Heather Demetrios

My debut novel, Something Real, is about a girl who’s on a reality TV show with her family. Unfortunately for her, she’d rather be anywhere but in front of the camera. Usually when we see reality TV, everyone on the show seems to willingly participate; they’re gobbling up screen time and creating as much drama as possible. We’ve all seen the catfights, the contestants who spill their guts in the confessional interviews, the people who would do almost anything for fame. Almost every week I feel like I’m seeing a reality TV “star” on the cover of a magazine, which further shows that reality TV is more popular than ever. It seems as if America can’t get enough of these newly crowned celebrities. 

One of the things about being on reality TV that is hardest for my protagonist, Bonnie™, is that the camera has made it difficult for her to know who she really is. She says: “Being in front of a camera all the time twists and warps you…one second it makes you feel unbelievably alive and the next publicly strips you down until all that’s left is one big question mark.” Bonnie™ has lived almost her entire life in front of the camera. So who is the real Bonnie™? The one when the red light on the camera is blinking, or the one when the crew has gone home for the day? 

For part of my research for the book, I looked into the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which in very simple terms is the concept that when something is being observed, it alters its behavior. My use of it is not terribly scientific, but I liked the idea of the act of observation itself being a variable that changes the outcome of an experiment. Reality TV is an ongoing experiment in human behavior, is it not? Hypothesis: If we put people in front of the camera in humiliating situations then they will (fill in the blank). Bonnie™ recognizes that when there’s a camera in the room, it’s almost impossible to forget it’s there. You are going to alter how you behave, what you say, and how you present yourself either consciously or subconsciously. So even if you think you’re being yourself—being “real”—you aren’t. The truth is, there’s nothing real about reality TV.

After I read about this, I quickly realized that this is exactly what it feels like for any high schooler, whether they’re being filmed or not. Big Brother might not be watching you, but you can be certain other teens are. When I was in high school, my friends used to say I was paranoid because I was certain this one group of girls was always talking about me behind my back. They probably weren’t—I was a little paranoid. But my fear was legitimate: maybe those girls weren’t watching me, but somebody was. How do I know? Because I was watching people. In high school it’s so important to fit in, right? Or to be seen as an iconoclast, a rebel. Either way, we want to be seen and we want people to see us in a certain light. We are so self-conscious, watching other people, trying to gauge where we fit in. To some extent, this is true even after high school, though it’s usually not so constant or so intense. 

There’s a scene in SOMETHING REAL when students in Bonnie™’s government class relate the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to the book they’re reading (1984). The discussion quickly expands to Facebook and other kinds of social networking. One of the characters says, “Big Brother doesn’t have to watch us because we’re watching each other.” In a way, our lives have become one big reality show. You never know when someone’s filming something or taking a photo—think about all the embarrassing stuff that goes up on Facebook or Instagram or YouTube. More than ever, we’re aware of cameras and for many people, things like Facebook and YouTube can have a devastating effect on their lives. So even if you’re not on a reality TV show, it shouldn’t be too hard to understand a lot of what my characters are going through. And, like Bonnie™, we all have to figure out who we are when the cameras aren’t around.


I loved reading Heather's post! It's certainly true that we live in a world where the things you do or say are observed more than ever, and easily shared via all the social media sites in the world. I love the fact that digital developments have made it easier for me to keep in touch with my family in the Philippines and to make new friends from all over the world. But sometimes, it can be a little too much exposure, too much "caught on camera", and I have to withdraw and spend time in the real world. 

Now, thanks to the generosity of the team at Macmillan, I have a giveaway!

PRIZE: One lucky winner will receive a finished copy of Something Real!

(Please note that this giveaway is US/CA only.)


  1. This book was just phenomenal. I loved everything about it, and I think it's probably one of the best books I've ever read and reviewed for my blog. I LOVE Heather's post, too. It's insightful and realistic - just like her novel. Thanks for sharing, Alexa!

  2. This post made me more interested in the book. I've never read a book about such a topic, sounds cool! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. I can't wait to read this.

    Does Jeopardy count? :)

  4. Never heard of this one but it sounds great! Can't wait to read it!

  5. This book sounds great! Can't wait to rrad it!

    If I had to pick I guess it would be a travel show like Idiot Abroad but without being an idiot lol.

  6. I used to fantasize about being on America's Next Top Model -- never mind that I'm too short for the industry standard and can't pose to save my life. I would have aced delivering lines for their commercial challenges, though!

    In any case, this book looks like a cool read. I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy soon. : )

  7. Um, if talent were no obstacle, I'd love like SYTYCD or American Idol, but I can't sing or dance. Maybe a reality show about readers? Haha.

  8. I've been loving all the different interviews Heather has had since release day! It's so true how important of a role perception plays in high school. But I have to say that I'm so glad this group of kids stayed true to themselves at the end of the day. Love them so much. <3

  9. This book actually sounds so awesome. I'm a high schooler and I so agree with you, no matter what, someone is watching! Great review!

  10. This sounds like a really interesting book!

  11. I'll LOVE to be on Hell's Kitchen! I'll probably get cursed out the first day, but hey, at least I get to meet Gordon face to face (even though he'll HATE me). ;D<3
    I've also heard AMAZING things about Something Real. I can't wait to get a copy in my hands!

  12. Heard so much about this one, I really want to read!! Also, I REALLY REALLY DESPERATELY want to be on Amazing Race. In fact, I've already outlined a work out plan with fiance that I told him we need to implement once I move back to WA this spring in order to prepare. I want to apply once i'm done with school. I've only been waiting to apply for the past oh, 5 years. haha. :)

  13. I've definitely been eyeing this one for a while -- sounds good!

  14. This sounds great!

    Does Wheel of Fortune count? If not then I'd have to go with The Amazing Race!

  15. I keep hearing about this book and it just sounds so interesting!

    If I could be on any reality show it would probably be The Real World. I would LOVE to say Big Brother, but I don't think I could survive the challenges or the slop. XD


  16. ((This is Darith L)

    I'd say The Amazing Race! But I don't think I got enough power to do that. haha

  17. To be honest, I don't think I'd want to be on reality TV. I'm pretty shy and I wouldn't like people watching my every moment or recognizing me all the time. Thanks for sharing!


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