Recent Adult Books with Reality TV Elements

Addison Rizer


Addison Rizer is a writer and reader of anything that can be described as weird, sad, or scary. She has an MA in Professional Writing and a BA in English. She writes for Book Riot and Publishers Weekly and is always looking for more ways to gush about the books she loves. Find her published work or contact her on her website or at addisonrizer at gmaildotcom.

Books with reality TV elements are a huge sub-genre! There are reality TV romcoms, YA reality TV novels, horror novels, literary fiction, the list goes on and on. We are obsessed with reality TV, as is exemplified by the millions of viewers watching The Bachelor, Big Brother, Love is Blind, The Circle, and so many more! Our love for the drama, the glimpse into the “real” life of people, that orchestrated reality, shows up in our fiction too.

The cool thing about fictional reality TV is it can be pushed to its limits. For example, Hunger Games features a society rallying around the televising of young adults murdering each other for entertainment. Others are set in space, feature impossible challenges, and raise the stakes because of it. Without the limitations of reality (or perceived reality anyway), the drama is heightened, the betrayal all the worse. Not only do you get the drama and in-fighting, but often you also get life-or-death stakes! To me, that’s thrilling!

And the sub-genre is still going strong as new novels with reality TV aspects continue to be published each year. So, here are eight adult books from the last six years that will give you that extra dose of “reality.”

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente book cover

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

In an effort to keep the public entertained, the Metagalactic Grand Prix was created. Competitors face off in a competition to sing, dance, and entertain in whatever way they can. When humankind is forced to join in, Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes are chosen to represent the Earth. This cosmic, musical, alien-filled novel is a delightful, silly, and snarky romp.

cover of Patricia Wants to Cuddle

Patricia Wants to Cuddle by Samantha Allen

The last four contestants on a dating reality TV competition called The Catch travel to an island in the Pacific Northwest for the finale episodes. As the crew stirs up drama and contests stab each other in the backs, a sasquatch lurks in the woods. One that soon starts picking contestants off, one by one. Will any of the contestants make it out alive or will Patricia come for them all?

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Twelve people sign up for a mysterious reality TV show set in the wilderness that promises to push them to their physical limits and test their survival skills. A few weeks into filming, though, one of the contestants, Zoo, stumbles across evidence of a global disaster. The corpses and destruction are all just part of the game, right? But as she continues through the challenges and faces more and more danger, her confidence in the watching crew to keep her safe dwindles and her grasp of reality is left uncertain.

cover of recipe for persuasion

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

When Ashna is asked to join Cooking with the Stars, she jumps at the chance to save her restaurant and prove to her mother she is successful. Then she’s paired with just about the worst-case scenario: Rico Silva, a soccer player and her first love who totally ghosted her. Too bad their every meeting goes viral as the public becomes obsessed with their chemistry. Is this a second chance at love or proof they were never meant to be?

book cover of Accidentally Engaged by Sarah Heron

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Reena’s parents aren’t exactly sneaky about moving her father’s new employee, Nadim, in across the hall in an attempt to get them to fall in love. Reena is determined never to give her parents that satisfaction. But when the chance to enter a couples-only cooking competition comes up, Reena knows just the guy to pretend to be her fiancé to get her way in. As the pair cook together, though, they might stir up too much chemistry to resist.

Book Cover of The Con Season by Adam Cesare

The Con Season by Adam Cesare

To stave off financial troubles, international horror movie star Clarissa Lee agrees to participate in a unique convention. When she arrives at the grounds of a summer camp, though, it seems the immersive part of the convention meant living through a horror movie in real life. She and the other celebrities must fight to the death to make it out alive.

cover of The Love Con by Seressia Glass

The Love Con by Seressia Glass

Kenya’s years of being obsessed with cosplay and gaming finally pay off when she makes it onto the competition show Cosplay or No Way. Better still, she makes it to the finals. But the judges want the last challenge to involve her significant other, which is not really possible for single Kenya. Her best friend, Cam, is willing to fill in, though, and the pair set out to wow the judges. But as their pretend relationship brings up real feelings, Kenya and Cam’s friendship and her chance at winning the show are left hanging in the balance.

Hide by Kiersten White book cover

Hide by Kiersten White

Under the guise of a hide-and-seek reality TV competition, 14 young adults are driven to a secret location where an abandoned amusement park sits. All Mack and the others have to do is not get caught. But when people begin disappearing and the crew of the supposed show dodge every question, Mack begins to wonder if there’s something more sinister and if the show even exists at all.

Still want more reality TV content? Try these 8 books to pair with your favorite gentle reality TV shows or check out this reader’s experience reading about reality TV!