The Real is a supernatural mystery with quite a few clichés. The tragedy in the woods. The mysterious deaths that have occurred in the same woods since then. The mysterious older man who seems to know what’s going on but of course talks in riddles. The curious young man who can’t resist digging into things he’s warned to stay away from.
I detested Jeremy, the aforementioned curious young man who was the main character in the story. I think he was supposed to be a likeable, sympathetic character, but he pretty much met all of my criteria for “scum of the earth”. He was dishonest. He cheated on his girlfriend. He put his own needs above the needs and even the safety of the people he supposedly cared about. He would piously think to himself that he didn’t want to get people in trouble or put them in danger, but then he consistently did just that for no higher purpose than to satisfy his own whims. He repeatedly failed to meet his responsibilities. He tried a drug he knew nothing about that was given to him by a girl he knew nothing about. He drove while under the influence of this drug. I couldn’t muster the slightest bit of sympathy for him. The other characters didn’t offer anything special. There were a couple who seemed interesting, but we didn’t get to see much of them. The entire book was written from Jeremy’s perspective, so the reader is stuck in his obnoxious mind all the way through.
The first half of the book was a very slow build-up to the main action. Had I liked the character, I probably would have enjoyed the extra time taken to let the reader get to know Jeremy and see his interactions with the people involved in the story. I don't normally complain about a lack of action in books but, since I didn’t like the main character, I started to wonder if we were ever going to move on and see some action.
The only thing that saved this book from a lower rating was that the story did start to get interesting somewhere in the second half. The story took some interesting turns and the mystery aspect held my interest as I tried to figure out the answers to the questions that were raised. I figured out some aspects well in advance, but there were others I didn’t figure out until shortly before Jeremy did. The ending was pretty open-ended. It wrapped up most of the open questions, but it left some very major threads hanging.