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Estelle: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reality Boy by A.S. KingReality Boy by A.S. King ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pages: 368
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: reality TV, anger management, family dynamics
Format read: ARC paperback from TLA.

Summary: A small part of Gerald’s childhood was documented on Network Nanny, and 12 years later, he is still tormented by classmates, his family, and his own insecurities created by his “Crapper” legacy. Will he ever be able to leave all of that behind and find a place where he can feel at home surrounded by people who care?

I did it! I finally read my first A.S. King book and I am so very glad that I did.

I’m not much of a reality show fan (unless there are spray tans, sequins, and live bands involved) so before I even started Reality Boy, I felt a certain disdain for Network Nanny — the show that Gerald and his family were on 12 years ago. The episodes, featuring an English “nanny” who was sent to their home to help them maintain discipline and some kind of familial happiness, cut and paste Gerald’s childhood for the maximum entertainment of the audience, and that continues to haunt him after the last camera leaves his home.

I really love reading books from a male’s perspective (why is it so rare?) and Gerald’s voice was so unique because he was just SO angry that people could not forget that he was the one who crapped in people’s shoes or in their beds (ew, true story) when he was just a little kid acting out over the injustices in his house. Seriously, the dynamic in the Faust home is majorly messed up. Parents who do not get a long, a troublesome older sister who gets everything she wants, and two younger siblings who are the victims of her unnecessary rage.

No wonder why Gerald felt alone. He felt zero support from his mother who was perfectly okay with him being in special ed classes when he didn’t need to be, his sister was not only physically abusive but verbally, and his father just couldn’t stand up to anyone, even for the sake of his son’s safety or happiness. It’s no wonder Gerald has a to take a trip to his “happy place” filled with ice cream and Disney characters just to feel some sense of calm.

Then there is Register #1 girl a.k.a. Hannah who works with Gerald serving food at sporting and circus events. She’s sort of quiet and keeps to herself, writing in a little notebook. Gerald has a major crush on her, and their budding friendship is seriously the best thing in his life in just about forever. Like him, she is fed up with her home life but for entirely different reasons. There are a lot of growing pains between the two, and it’s interesting to see how both of their situations affect how they treat one another. Can they overcome all their drama?

Reality Boy focuses on some super serious subject matter; it’s true. But the short chapters make the entire book incredibly fast-paced and even though there was times I was very scared thinking about what Gerald could do to himself or to others, I was so intrigued by his voice. King is a fantastic writer, and I really love all the tough dynamics she brought to the surface. It’s really hard for any young person to decide to put themselves before their family. It’s just not the way things should go. Parents should care about their kids, treat all of them equally, and not ignore problems. But unfortunately, this happens. I was so interested to see if Gerald could find it in himself to move forward, and who would be on his team in the end.

(From the reality TV standpoint, it’s super discussion-worthy to wonder about the consequences of this form of entertainment. How kids will feel when they are adult, and never having any control or say as to what their parents put on TV. We want to be able to trust the adults in our lives but sometimes they don’t always make the correct decisions for us. Wouldn’t this be great to chat about in book club?)

I’m looking forward to checking out more of King’s work pronto.

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March 2, 2014 - 10:23 am

Nailed It: Hollywood Edition - […] Reality Boy by A.S. King Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Estelle’s Review […]

November 10, 2013 - 8:57 pm

Sara (of The Page Sage) - The short chapters definitely kept me flipping the pages and Gerald’s voice is fantastic. His story is so heartbreaking and it’s made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that there are real kids who are forced on reality TV shows without their consent.

As always, great review!

November 4, 2013 - 5:42 pm

Alexa Y. - I’m glad this book made such an impression on you! I’m a bit of a reality show junkie, so the premise of this one is pretty interesting to me. It would be very fascinating to see the author’s take on what it’s like for one of the kids who was on a reality show as a child to grow up and try to move on from that reputation he’s been accosted with. I’ve never read an A.S. King book yet, but this definitely sounds good!

November 1, 2013 - 12:27 pm

Judith - I always get angry at reality shows like this. Sure, they are enjoyable from time to time, but I hate when there are kids that didn’t sign up to be on TV. In a way, that can be seen as some form of child abuse. In fact, I feel the same way about parents who put every picture of their child on Facebook. The kid didn’t ask for it, that’s for sure. It’s a weird thing, really. I don’t like it. Just because of this reason, I am interested to see how I will feel about this book. I might just get all ragey like the MC though, haha.

October 30, 2013 - 1:33 pm

Bookworm1858 - I love how this looks at our contemporary entertainment landscape and its effect on families-I didn’t love my first King book (Please Ignore Vera Dietz) but I think I might like this one more and I hope to try it.

October 30, 2013 - 10:25 am

Leah @ The Pretty Good Gatsby - I completely agree with EVERYTHING, Estelle! This was my first King as well and I’m definitely going to read her others. I wasn’t sure what I expected when I sat down to read this, but it STILL has an impact on me (I read in back in April-ish for a book tour). Half a year later and I’m still haunted by this book? Bravo, King!

Seriously, the happiest moments in this book were the most heartbreaking.

& I think this is one of the first times where the cover model looked EXACTLY how I pictured the character. That boy IS Gerald.

October 29, 2013 - 4:47 pm

Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages - I remember seeing this cover and thinking the book definitely wasn’t for me, then I finally read the description and was intrigued, and after everything you said I really want to read it.

This is the third book I’ve heard about recently that deals with children who were on reality TV shows as kids. I read You Look Different in Real Life (which was about a documentary, but same idea) earlier this year and didn’t like it, but I’m excited to read Something Real which comes out next year.

October 29, 2013 - 3:41 pm

Allison L - I’ve heard good things about A.S. King’s books but have yet to actually read one myself. Reality Boy sounds like it has alot of promise based on your review. I also feel like I need to read more books that have male points of view. Definitely adding this one to my TBR list! 🙂

October 29, 2013 - 10:54 am

alice-jane - I’m glad to hear that Reality Boy didn’t disappoint! I requested it but I haven’t gotten to it yet. A.S King is a great writer who writes about difficult topics and I loved Ask the Passengers.

October 29, 2013 - 9:49 am

BookChic - Great review! I love A.S. King’s books (I think I’ve only read two though- need to get caught up!) and so glad you had a great experience with this one. I’m hoping to get my copy soon (A.S. is sending me one) and cannot wait to dive in!

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