This Is Not the Real World

Quirk. May 2022. 288p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781683692812.
Gr 8 Up–In the sequel to This Is Not the Jess Show, a YA riff on The Truman Show, 18-year-old Jess has escaped from the set of Stuck in the ‘90s, the reality television show that she unknowingly grew up as the star of. Now aware that it’s actually 2037, she’s laying low with boyfriend Kipps, 17, at the home of TV-sister Sara Flores and coming to understand facts of the modern world like climate disaster and extreme income inequality. When Kipps is caught and dragged back to the set, Sara reveals to Jess the existence of an online “anti-fandom” comprised of former cast members and viewers dedicated to investigating the wrongdoings of Life-Like Productions. Chief among these concerns is the suspicious disappearance months earlier of the extras’ union leader. As the former lead, Jess volunteers to return the set to covertly gather evidence—but quickly realizes LLP is even more dangerous than anyone realized. This title picks up shortly after the events of the first book and continues its thought-provoking exploration of the roles of surveillance, nostalgia, and exploitation in the entertainment industry. It also retains the cinematic quality and strong pacing of the first book while fleshing out many secondary characters’ backstories. Kipps and Jess are assumed white, Sara is biracial, and friend Amber is cued as Black.
VERDICT Fans of the gripping first installment will clamor for the second. Recommended for purchase where This Is Not the Jess Show is popular.

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