Reality TV encompasses many sub-genres. You have competition-style shows like Survivor, Project Runway, or America’s Next Top Model. These usually have an elimination method with fans rooting for contestants until there’s one final winner.
There’s also the “place a camera in a location and watch the drama unfold” with varying levels of setup on the production’s end. These include shows like Terrace House or Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Then, there’s dating reality TV. The Bachelor, Love Island, and other shows like that are great examples. Viewers watch people date (or not date) while participants are isolated to one location.
Another prominent sub-genre is reality TV that shows viewers the reality of a profession. The First 48 or Deadliest Catch or Pawn Stars come to mind.
My point is that there are a lot of different kinds of reality TV. More than I even mentioned with their different contestants and staples and viewership. And reality TV shows up in books too. These fake reality TV shows in books can be used as ways to put characters in danger, get characters together, or even to give them a goal to work for. Whatever their reason, they always fascinate me.
If you’re like me and love reality TV in any context, here are nine YA novels that have a reality TV element sure to entertain you.
Young Adult Novels with Reality TV Elements
All the Right Reasons by Bethany Mangle
It’s not exactly easy having a father who cheated on your mother and then got remarried to another woman. Cara knows that more than anyone. After her rant about exactly that goes viral, she’s approached to be part of a reality TV show about single parent families. She and her mother end up in Key West, narrowing down suitors and their kids one by one. Cara isn’t expecting to be drawn to the son of a contestant, especially one that doesn’t seem to want to play the reality TV game. With cameras all around, will she fight her attraction, or will they find moments outside of the limelight to be together?
Reality Boy by A.S. King
Gerald has been the focus of reality TV cameras since he was five. His childhood was frustrating, exposed, and it only made him angry to think about even 12 years later. The aftermath has left him having outbursts and friendless and close to losing it. It turns out reality TV leaves behind more consequences than the average viewer might realize.
Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
Nora is confident about her chances on a reality TV cooking competition called Taste Test. She has been cooking for her father’s barbecue restaurant since she was a kid. After she’s accepted onto the show, she’s determined not to let her roommate and the son of a renowned chef prove to complicate things. But then someone starts sabotaging the competition, and Nora can’t let her guard down if she wants to make it to the end.
I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee
Skye wants to be the first fat K-Pop star, no matter what anyone else says. After joining a reality TV competition for the next star, she impresses at her audition. But along with the chance to be a K-Pop icon comes with public scrutiny, drama, and a whole lot of fatphobia from the public. To complicate things further, she’s wildly attracted to another competitor. But to achieve her dreams of being a star, she must overcome all of this and stay true to herself.
Lights, Camera, Quince! by Veronica Chambers
Best friends Alica, Jamie, Carmen, and Gaz spend their summer planning amazing quinceañera parties for their friends. When a reality TV show approaches them about quinceañeras, they jump at the chance for fame. But the pressure builds under the thought of a spotlight and soon their friend group is on shaky ground. Will they throw a great quince and strengthen their friendship or will the show prove to be too much to make it through?
Rumor Central by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
Miami Divas, a reality show of teenagers, turned Maya and her friends into media sensations. Through that, she got her own show that she’s determined to make successful. Unfortunately, that means turning on some of her friends and sharing their secrets in order to get her ratings up. Will she be able to make things right or has she sacrificed everyone close to her for the limelight? Maya will have to decide.
Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke
After getting expelled from high school, Jane makes a deal with her parents to go to Elbow River Community College where they have classes she can take to get her high school diploma. But she has one condition: she gets to move out. She joins House of Orange, a Big Brother–style reality TV web show that follows students at Elbow River. As the show’s popularity grows, Jane’s competitiveness comes out in spades and she is sure, using some of her psychology knowledge from class, she can win.
For Real by Alison Cherry
Around the World, an Amazing Race type show, is the perfect way for Claire and Miranda to become famous. Claire has been watching reality TV her whole life. But as she develops a relationship in front of the cameras, she’s left questioning what’s real about reality TV after all. Sisterly bonding and adventures across the globe make this a great summer, feel-good read.
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
When Maia’s father is summoned to court to compete in a tailor’s challenge, she dresses as a boy and takes his place. To be found out would mean death, but her dreams of becoming the best tailor outweigh the risk. With sabotage and cutthroat fellow contestants, Maia faces the final challenge of sewing three magic gowns for the bride of the emperor. Forbidden romance, magic, and fantasy make this an excellent read.
Want more reality-TV based book recommendations? Check out this quiz that will recommend you a romance novel based on your favorite reality TV show or these 9 fun reality TV romcom reads!