Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Release date: October 22, 2013
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 368
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.
What an interesting and heart-breaking book! Even while certain parts were hard to read because Gerald's reality was just so horrific, his progression and realizations are profound. I've not read any of A.S. King's other books, but after Reality Boy, I know that won't be true for long.

While there's a lot going on here in regards to reality TV itself that's really interesting, I found myself pulled towards Gerald more than anything. Growing up with a psychopathic sister who humps furniture (at age 12) and attempts to murder him and his other sister and parents who deal with it either by appeasing the sister or working more, Gerald is crying out for attention. This manifests itself in punching walls and, eventually, pooping on other people's things. A television nanny is called in, and Gerald's crappy home life is broadcast for millions to see, only with Gerald cast as the problem child. From then on, he's the "Crapper" and he can't escape the stigma, which leads to major anger issues and to being ostracized by those at his school, treated like a spectacle rather than a human being.

To deal with all of this, Gerald has anger management and boxing, but his fail-safe is "Gersday", his happy place where he can retreat and live in a world without Tasha, a world in which he can have ice cream whenever he wants it. It's juvenile, but he can't progress past that coping mechanism because he's never felt safe in the one place he should feel safe: home. He's relegated to special education classes because he was taught to read late and too afraid to ask for help with homework. Gerald's world is all about himself and his problems, dealing with his anger, refusing to show how much pain is inside. In the novel, he comes out of his self-centered world through Hannah, a girl he works with, who pulls Gerald into the real world, one in which everyone has problems and everyone has to cope. They're a perfect pair of problems who are desperately searching for someone to care about them, someone to see that they desperately want to be loved and worried about, even as their relationship isn't easy.

The two take their fate into their own hands, finally acting proactively against their crappy situations. It's a moment when you want to smile and clap, because both Gerald and Hannah are clearly good people who were handed awful situations, even as you know there are going to be bumps along the road. Gerald's narration is dynamic and engaging, and it very much reflects his state of mind and his evolution. You see his struggles and you feel his pain and desperation. It's difficult to read at times, because your heart with ache for Gerald, and you will even feel uncomfortable, but Reality Boy is an extraordinary book about a boy whose life has been shaped by reality TV learn how to adapt to reality.

About the author:

A.S. King is the author of the highly-acclaimed REALITY BOY, LA Times Book Prize winner ASK THE PASSENGERS, 2012 ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, and 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. She is also the author of the ALA Best Books for Young Adults THE DUST OF 100 DOGS as well as a collection of award-winning short stories for adults, MONICA NEVER SHUTS UP.

Look for Amy's work in anthologies DEAR BULLY, BREAK THESE RULES and LOSING IT. (And brace yourself for 2014's novel, GLORY O'BRIEN'S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE.)

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