May 31, 2018

Not all that glitters is gold | Reality Gold by Tiffany Brooks

Reality Gold
By Tiffany Brooks
Reality Gold
Published on May 22, 2018
398 Pages
YA, Contemporary

This book was provided to me by YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. I swear on my bookshelf that this has not affected my opinion of the book.

High school senior Riley Ozaki is desperate to change her reality after an avalanche of Internet shaming ruined her life. With her reputation and self-esteem at rock bottom thanks to cyberbullying, Riley needs to do something drastic to repair her social standing—which is why she decided to try out for a reality TV show. Suddenly, she’s dropping onto a deserted tropical island with nineteen other teens for a Survivor-style competition that she hopes will be her redemption. With a cast of vivid characters who will stop at nothing to win the show, a cursed island setting, and a priceless treasure waiting to be discovered, Reality Gold pitches readers right into scheming web of lies, love, and betrayal. This novel is a fast-paced journey where allies may not be who they say they are, and legends abound. Riley must embrace all of life’s realities, including loss and deceit, in order to discover who she truly is.


Reality Gold fell short for me in the same way that reality TV normally does--too much drama and too little plot. I will admit that the premise of a reality TV show is unique in YA and, therefore, will appeal to anyone looking for a change of setting or pace. I saw the potential for the story to transcend the restrictions of reality TV,  but it ultimately failed.

Riley as a character had little development,especially in the first half. Despite lamenting constantly about her mistakes, which at least shows self awareness, she did nothing to change her character. She became the spoiled, whiny rich girl who she claimed not to be and that the story was trying to convince us that she wasn't. I understand that Riley was supposed to be an unlikeable narrator but she does not have any redeeming qualities in my eyes. She made the same bad decisions over and over again, recognized that they were terrible decisions, and then did nothing to correct it. Her character arc became more of a cycle of frustrating faux-pas. 

Unlike Riley's character, the reality TV theme of the novel was thoroughly explored. I don't watch a lot of reality TV, but I have been known to enjoy the occasional episode of The Voice or Survivor. However, Reality Gold opened up the reality of reality TV by showing the behind the scenes that we never think about. While the on-screen storylines of Jersey Shore, American Idol, and all of the other top reality TV shows are entertaining, the scenes kept off-screen are even more interesting. In Reality Gold, you get a VIP, all-access pass to the makings of a (fictional) reality TV show that will excite any reality fan. 

Even though I did not like Riley's overall character, I could sympathize a little bit with her background story. I loved the inclusion of technology and social media into the plot as a reflection of the trials and tribulations of being a modern teenagers. Not many books successfully tackle the complications of social media and its power to ruin lives. Social media was not an afterthought in the plot but a main mechanism, much like in today's life for teenagers. 

Just like with reality TV, your opinion on Reality Gold is going to depend on your preference for drama. Personally, I am more of a fan of shows such as Survivor and The Amazing Race which thrive more on action and challenges rather than shows like The Bachelor or Big Brother. There is nothing wrong with any of these shows, but some depend on drama and social aspects more than others. Despite the marketing, Reality Gold parallels The Bachelor more than Survivor. Just when I would get into the treasure-hunting, puzzle-solving, and cipher-breaking, a love interest would hog the stage or a cat-fight would distract from the search.

In the end, the story occupied more by stereotypes than story. Everything was spelled out for the reader with nothing hidden beneath the surface of the characters. There was so much potential for the cross-over between reality TV and treasure-hunting but the detour into drama sabotaged the show. 

In Conclusion...

Is there ever such a thing as too much drama? Are you a fan of reality TV? If so, which shows do you watch? Have you read any books that tackle the issues of social media? I need some more recs!

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