Monday, November 4, 2013

Reality Boy

Reality Boy
A.S. King
368 pages
Released: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown
Source: NetGalley

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I'll admit it up front, I've never read anything by A.S. King before, so I didn't really know what to except out of Reality Boy, except that its description on NetGalley really drew me in.  I didn't get anything close to what I excepted though - I thought I was going to get a fluffy comedy piece about a kid who used to be on television and is now struggling with the after effects.  I expected maybe a three star book filled with humor, instead I got a hard-hitting, honest book, filled with realistic, raw emotion... a five star read hands down and you should pick up a copy today.

Gerald was five when a camera crew came into his home to film some episodes for Network Nanny (think Super Nanny).  Soon Gerald was known across the country as "The Crapper," the kid who crapped on the kitchen table, his sister's bed, and his parents' shoes.  But now Gerald is seventeen and the world still knows him as "The Crapper."  Gerald has anger issues and he desperately wants to escape his public persona, but how?

I immediately realized Reality Boy wasn't going to be fluffy at all, but that turned out to be for the best because what I did get was a book I couldn't put down.  I was sucked into the story right away, which alternated between Gerald's present time and scenes from episodes.  The stories unravel simultaneously and it becomes apparent quickly that Gerald isn't crapping on tables for a simple "behavior" problem.  Instead, there are deeper family issues at work.  But evidently deeper family issues don't sell interesting television, because for the entire book "Nanny"did not pay attention to what young Gerald or his siblings were trying to tell her.  Instead, the shows were scripted and scenes were filmed repeatedly.  The story the public saw was fake, so is it any wonder they thought Gerald was just some dumb kid who crapped on his family's things.

But I really and truly felt bad for Gerald for the emotional abuse his sister and mother put him though.  As the novel continues both Gerald and the reader learn about what really happened and I was appalled at his mother.  I don't want to spoil it, but I don't understand how any mother can act in the way she did and then try to get pity for herself.  I certainly didn't give her any.

There's also a love connection in Reality Boy and while it was a significant part of the novel, it wasn't a love-y dove-y romance at all.  In fact, Gerald's anger coach and told him repeated to not get involved with girls because eventually they would just do things that angered him.  But when Gerald met Hannah and they started to fall for each other, I knew he had no choice but to give love a chance.  Their relationship added a real balance to the story line and helped keep Gerald grounded.  They had their cute romance moments, but it was clear that each of them needed the other for a little bit of saving.

And how incredibly poignant at this day in age, when "reality" television dominates the airwaves, the more dramatic the better for ratings, but who really thinks about what it does to people?  How about the young children on these shows, what will their lives be like when they're teenagers?  I was thinking about the Gosselin children the most as a I read this book - America was fascinated with their family and then there was all kinds of fallout regarding both of their parents.  How will they grow up?  Only time will tell, but maybe we should be using Reality Boy as a warning.

Five stars!  Read this book!

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