If it’s just him, I cut a clean diagonal right across the middle, letting one half fall dead on the bed and throwing the other half on top of the pile. If it’s a picture of him with me, I carefully slice him off, and for some reason I save the piece with me in it. After a while, there’s a pile of Brian corpses lying there staring at nothing, and the pages of my album are all patched up with slices and triangles and scraps of pictures of me.
In every one of these sliced-up pictures, I look stranded.
Seventeen-year-old Emily’s world crumbles when her boy friend dumps her, and when she thinks her life can’t possibly get any worse, a series of secrets are revealed that threaten to tear her beloved family apart. Emily’s heart has been broken into a hundred pieces and she feels like there is no one to turn to, until an unexpected friendship blossoms with a troubled classmate named Leo. Sometimes moody but always supportive, Leo is Emily’s rock in an ocean of confusion and disbelief.
But Leo doesn’t have an easy life either. He struggles to be both mother and father to his little sister while his mom battles her alcohol addiction. His deadbeat dad darts in and out of the picture, and Leo would rather he stay away, permanently. The two friends lean on each other, and in the end discover the inner strength to face whatever life throws at them.
I don’t think I can quite capture my love for the relationship between Emily and Leo. I found it absolutely refreshing to read about a friendship between a boy and girl that stays just that: a friendship. When I was a teen, most of my best friends were boys, so I really identified with it. It was so realistic and honest and I just loved it. I also loved how they were both pretty messed up and damaged and didn’t really like each other at first, but slowly became close and trusted each other.
While I loved their relationship, I was a bit overwhelmed with Emily’s family secrets. The revelations, to me, seemed a bit forced and really came at a pretty fast pace. I realize that it’s possible for family stuff to go down that way, but I just felt that it was a bit rushed. But despite this, I really loved Emily for Real and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA contemp with strong themes of friendship.
Thanks to Pajama Press for the review copy.