No parents. No limits. No clue what they’re in for.
Shy, cautious Claire has always been in her confident older sister’s shadow. While Miranda’s life is jam-packed with exciting people and whirlwind adventures, Claire gets her thrills vicariously by watching people live large on reality TV.
When Miranda discovers her boyfriend, Samir, cheating on her just before her college graduation, it’s Claire who comes up with the perfect plan. They’ll outshine Miranda’s fame-obsessed ex while having an amazing summer by competing on Around the World, a race around the globe for a million bucks. Revenge + sisterly bonding = awesome.
But the show has a twist, and Claire is stunned to find herself in the middle of a reality-show romance that may or may not be just for the cameras. This summer could end up being the highlight of her life… or an epic fail forever captured on film. In a world where drama is currency and manipulation is standard, how can you tell what’s for real?
Alison grew up in Evanston, IL. She is a professional photographer and spent many years working as a lighting designer for theater, opera, and dance. Now she lives in Brooklyn and writes young adult novels full time. She is represented by the lovely and amazing Holly Root of Waxman Leavell.
My second young adult novel, For Real, is about two sisters, Claire and Miranda, who go on a race-around-the-world reality show in order to take revenge on Miranda’s cheating ex-boyfriend. Since the difficult, messy, enduring love between sisters is at the heart of the book, I invited my own sister to have a conversation with me about sisterhood. Erica, want to tell everyone a little about yourself?
E: I’m a medical physicist who works at the Stanford Medical Center developing a better radiation treatment system for cancer patients. I’m good at math and clarinet, average at running and writing, and bad at remembering to remove tags from new clothing before wearing it.
A: Whereas I am good at writing and removing tags, average at math, and really, really, really bad at running. Like, really bad.
So, lots of readers will probably ask me whether the sister relationship portrayed in For Real is true to my relationship with you. We have about the same age difference as the sisters in the book, but in real life I’m older while Claire, the narrator, is the younger sister. What else about their relationship rang true to you, and what stood out as different?
E: When I was a kid and a teenager, I definitely sometimes felt like Claire does in the beginning, i.e. thinking you’re the cool, beautiful, smart one, and I’m just the awkward little sister who’s in your shadow. But I think the main difference is that you’ve always been way nicer to me than Miranda is to Claire. I never felt like I didn’t matter to you or that you wanted to leave me behind. Basically, I think you’re a much more thoughtful person than Miranda is.
A: Well, that’s reassuring! I also don’t feel like I ever underestimated you the way Miranda underestimates Claire. But the protective instinct she feels was definitely there for me, too. Also, there were moments when you were just starting to become an adult that I’d be talking to you and I’d suddenly think, “Whoa, when did she become a grownup??” I think Claire spends most of the book waiting for Miranda have one of those moments.
E: Yes! And I could definitely tell you felt protective, but you weren’t annoying about it.
A: Claire spends a lot of the book feeling like people judge her and set expectations for her based on things Miranda does. Did you feel like that when my old teachers used to call you by my name and expect you to be good at the same stuff I was good at?
E: Yeah, I hated that. It got better in high school, but it didn’t go away until college. It occasionally worked in my favor, though, like when your old math teacher thought I’d hate math, and then I turned out to be his most enthusiastic student.
A: Did you resent me when people acted like we should be the same person?
E: No, I just resented them.
A: Would you say that feeling of trying to fill someone else’s shoes is the biggest challenge of having an older sister?
E: There aren’t really any challenges now, but when I was a kid, that was the biggest one. What’s the biggest challenge of having a younger sister?
A: When we were kids, it was probably watching people praise you for things that seemed incredibly dumb or simplistic to me. I don’t know if you remember this, but when you were eight, you decided to write a “novel” about the Holocaust. Everyone was ooooh-ing and ahhh-ing over how amazing that was, and I was furious. I was like, “GUYS, SHE’S EIGHT, SHE CANNOT WRITE A NOVEL ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST.”
E: Hahaha, sorry about that! I remember that novel. It was so dumb.
A: So what do you think is the best part about having a sister?
E: It’s like having a permanent best friend for your whole life! When I was younger, I always used to think that everything would be perfect if I could have 1) a sister, 2) a best friend, and 3) a boyfriend. But I separated best friend and sister because I didn’t think of a best friend as permanent.
A: I was so eager to have a sister before you were born. When Mom was pregnant with you, I told her she better have a girl, because I wouldn’t accept a little brother. I made all these drawings for you that said, “For my little sister” across the top.
E: I’m so glad I was a girl.
A: Me too. SISTERS ARE FOREVER! And I think Claire and Miranda will feel that best friend connection, too, once they learn to listen to each other a little better.
E: It’s just so nice to always have someone who really understands you.
A: Definitely. I was going to say the sister mind-meld is the best part. Like how I was always the only one who could understand you when you talked with your mouth full at the dinner table, or the time we sent each other Valentines with the exact same picture of Robert Pattinson printed from the internet and stuck on the front.
E: Remember when I was trying to draw “turbulence” in Pictionary, and you knew what I meant even though you were on another team, and we both just laughed and laughed and laughed? I drew someone about to throw up on a plane. I almost threw up myself from laughing.
A: That was awesome.
All right, last question: how do you think we’d do as a team on a race-around-the-world show?
E: Pretty well, I think. We work well together, and we have complimentary skill sets. Like, I could get us around, and you could think up ridiculous strategies for solving problems.
A: Yeah, I don’t think we’d fight at all. But I love how you have basically all the practical race-around-the-world skills, and my main skill is thinking of ridiculous stuff.
E: But you’re SO GOOD at that!
A: I mean, it is my main skill. Which is probably why you’re the scientist and I’m the one who writes books about reality TV for a living…
Thanks so much for your input, Erica, and for being such an excellent sister!