|Reality Boy by A.S. King|
October 22, 2013
Little, Brown Books
Genre: Mature Young Adult
(contains sexual references, mature language)
Source: eARC from publisher for Honest review
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.
Reality Boy was so much more than I was expecting. I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. Delving into Gerald's life, present and past, was fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Like the concept of Reality TV, watching Gerald's life is like watching a car accident unfold before your eyes. You can't stop looking, even when the carnage is revealed. It's terrible and tragic and you are just hoping everyone will survive the fallout.
A.S. King does a tremendous job looking beyond the surface and the camera editing and sees into the heart and soul of Gerald, and Hannah, and anyone else's life behind closed doors. Ignoring things does not make them go away, and frequently it just makes things worse. And amidst the evil, for lack of a better word, there is also hope. With every terrible character, there is a person with a flicker of hope, wanting something better and wishing that for another. And I love that Gerald gives me hope, beyond him just trying to stay out of jail. There is hope in this story, but there is a tough fight to get there, and I loved the journey. (Also, the world can always use more Hockey ladies.)
And what a cast of characters we have. We are primarily looking at Gerald. And I loved Gerald. I wanted to hug him and steal him away and raise him with my three sons. Watching him go through his revelations was heart-breaking, yet he was so strong in character and I admired him for it. Gerald's messed up family plays a key role in his life and we get plenty of insight into how screwed up they are and why they do, and have done, the things they do. And while this is a work of fiction, there is truth in the inter-weavings of the story. There is truth that not only is there is so much behind the scenes of Reality TV, but there is so much beyond the "reality" of what people show in their daily lives.
This is not only a reflection on childhood, but also on parenthood. On doing the right thing. On choosing something uncomfortable because it is the right thing to do. On protecting the little guy. On not being blind to the truth and seeing what's really there and not just what you want. On taking responsibility and not just waiting around. There is truth that the way we parent, or don't parent, affects our children negatively or positively. I've witnessed these things, as I'm sure we all have. And I liked how the author addressed this.
This is my first A.S. King novel, but it certainly won't be my last.