Books for Reality Romance Fans: One to Watch, If the Shoe Fits, The Jasmine Project, and Eligible

30 Mar

f you’re anything like me, you might watch reality TV shows about finding love…only to be constantly disappointed by the relationships falling apart immediately after exiting the unrealistic bubble of television. Instead of watching these programs, I’ve turned to books featuring romance reality TV plots where they don’t show the aftermath and I get to assume a long-lasting, fulfilling relationship for the pair. So instead of watching this winter’s season of  “The Bachelor,” here’s what I’ve been reading:

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London features popular fashion blogger Bea, who is asked to star in the reality TV show “Main Squeeze” to help revamp the show’s reputation. She agrees to be the lead to empower her career and the many other women who don’t see themselves represented on TV by the slew of size 0s. This book is creatively written by episode, with email excerpts, tweets, and news articles peppered in to make the book flow easily. While the story depicts realistic struggles to which the public eye subjects fat women, I thought the author had the production crew making too many horrendously insensitive decisions, using Bea’s pain to further the plot – though it does show how important diversity is in positions of power and decision-making, not just for representation to the public. And in the end, it all works out, with a delightfully happy ending for our beloved Bea, a character that is truly her own rather than a generalized female protagonist with little personality.

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy is similarly driven and a modern-day take on Cinderella. Cindy goes on her stepmother’s reality TV show “Before Midnight” as a contestant alongside her two stepsisters. It refreshingly diverges from the tale we know in that Cindy actually has a functioning and supportive relationship with her stepfamily; in fact, we see evidence of her realistic efforts to cultivate healthy relationships with the people in her life – including, most importantly, herself. Instead of the story focusing on Cindy battling an onslaught of fatphobia like the former book, it is a light story that took the time to really develop the love between her and her prince, making for an absolutely beautiful read. While I did feel like the ending was a little thrown together in a way that felt disloyal to the characters, the rest of the story was so delightful that it was very much worth the read to me and overall raised my spirits.

I also recently read The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland, a YA spin on the idea of multiple suitors competing for a girl’s heart, and Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. The Jasmine Project actually mentions the “Bachelor” show rather than renaming it. Jasmine’s older sister runs a podcast about the TV program and decides to do a real-life mini version starring Jasmine – unbeknownst to her of course – to show her that she deserves better than her current boyfriend (who is admittedly a big jerk). Even though Jasmine just graduated from high school, the writing style seemed geared toward an even younger audience. Nevertheless, it is a fairly fun coming of age story that delves into what young people deserve in relationships. Eligible incorporates the Bachelor-esque reality TV show by having Chip Bingley previously star on the show, “Eligible,” rather than the main story itself taking place throughout the love contest. While I didn’t feel like the author approached sensitive social issues as tactfully as she should have, she did capture Jane Austen’s wit and made this light tale one I absolutely flew through. 

For any tired fans of The Bachelor looking for some fresh love to have faith in, you might find some solace in any of these four fun reads.

Written by:
Stephanie Lodico
Library Assistant

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