The Upside of Ordinary

The Upside of Ordinary is a story of a young girl who dreams of becoming famous.  The book is reviewed by Melissa G. at Sweet on Books.

What you need to know:

• A young girl, who dreams of becoming famous, decides that filming a reality television show about her family is
her ticket to Hollywood.
• The main character confronts the moral and ethical questions associated with reality TV.
• The story takes place in the lovely state of Maine – and it sure sounds like a nice place to live!
• Written in the first person, readers get to know the main character’s thoughts and feelings.
• Short chapters, few characters, a fairly simple plot, and a total of 128 pages keep the story moving along
quickly and make this book a great choice for reluctant readers.
• Although the story is easy to follow, it does address complex issues like honesty and morality as they relate to both
the kids and the adults in the story.

Sweet Book Summary:

The rich and famous have always been glorified, but with reality television, the road to that lifestyle seems more accessible these days. And, as reality television has proven, you don’t even need any talent to become a star. Eleven-year-old Jermaine Davidson is obsessed with finding her own path to fame. She considers her options and decides that with her frizzy hair, she’s not likely to cut it as a model, so her best bet is to film a reality television show about her own family. That’s her easiest decision. Things get more complicated as she debates whether or not to invade her family’s privacy and orchestrate uncomfortable situations – just because they might be good for ratings!

Jermaine starts by filming the everyday activities of her parents, her sister Zelda, her best friends Ro and Nina, and her Aunt Edie, Uncle Larry and cousin Melinda. They’re a pretty ordinary, although slightly quirky crew – her dad is a neat freak, her mom runs a pickle business from the barn in their backyard, and her aunt and uncle own a balloon business. Jermaine is concerned that her footage is too boring for reality TV, but when she tries to create a little action for the camera, she ends up with some big problems. It starts small, with a burnt microwave and a broken water pitcher, but it quickly escalates. Before long, Jermaine is leaving a wake of destruction in her path. She pushes her best friend into a bad makeover, she drives her mom out of their house when she brings home a tarantula, she ruins her mom’s entry for the Pickle Palooza contest, and she even considers exploiting her poor Uncle Larry who had skipped town to pursue some wild dreams of his own. It seems like Jermaine will do just about anything to get famous.

Although Jermaine’s story hinges on current technology, the essence of her character is really timeless. Young readers will relate to Jermaine’s authentic voice, her innocence and determination, her attempts to understand the adults in her life, her love/hate relationship with her sister, and her sharp sense of humor. They will laugh with her, as a family scrabble game turns into a fight over the word “fart”, as she writes to the “king” of reality TV, asking if he has googled himself, and when she realizes she didn’t wet her pants, she just sat in pickle juice! Jermaine eventually comes to understand the sad “reality” of reality television, and she finds that there are other, more productive ways to use her video camera. As Jermaine and Uncle Larry both learn, there is no quick or easy path to fame and fortune.

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