Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Benefactor by Erin Fry

I don't really watch reality shows, but it is impossible not to know about them and know how they are work. With this story, we get a behind the scenes look at a show that pits eight high school students against each other for a chance to win a scholarship to one of the top schools in the country.

So you know the set up - contestants live in a house together (in this case, boys and girls in separate houses) and compete in a series of tasks after which someone is sent home.

We follow each contestant and the shows creator through its first season. The four boys and four girls each have a compelling reason for wanting the scholarship. For example, Tyrell hurt himself playing football. We know what contestants are thinking and how they are playing the game. We also know that creator (who is unknown to the public) has doubts and struggles he must deal with also.

This story could have been filled with cliche student characters (the jock, the brainy kid, the rebel - think The Breakfast Club), but the teens are more complex which is quite a feat for a relatively short book with so many characters.

I've read a few books recently with reality shows as a part of the story. They usually address how being on the show has messed up the participants. This one has a more positive take on the contestants and its creator. As with actual reality shows, the suspense comes with the question of who will survive to the end. Who will make a mistake and get kicked off? Knowing the characters back stories make the questions all the more compelling. This is a fun quick read with some interesting characters and is probably better than any actual reality show.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

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