Reality Boy by A.S. King ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
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.