Reality Boy by A.S. King
This review is based on an advanced reader’s e-copy, physician acquired through NetGalley. This in no way, doctor shape or form had any effect on my honest review. Thank you Little, Brown for granting me access to this novel.
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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.
This book was brought to my attention by Andrew Smith, the author of Winger. He kept talking about A.S. King, who I admit I had not heard of before this, and her brand new book, Reality Boy, which was just released yesterday. As soon as I saw it on NetGalley, I immediately bid for it and was excited when I got it. I already read Lauren Kate’s new book, Teardrop, and I went tearing through Allegiant yesterday. After taking some time to recover from Allegiant (which I still haven’t QUITE recovered yet), I was bored and needed to keep moving through my ever-growing list of book. I remembered that this released yesterday, and I sped through this book yesterday too. I was on a ROLL.
I had read the synopsis for this book but I don’t think I was quite prepared for the sort of story that King was going to tell. I was still reeling from Allegiant and my emotions were still going haywire and I went face first into this book, unaware of how this book was going to effect me.
This book was such an eye opener in two different ways. One, it really makes you think about the effect a camera can have on a child, whether its reality TV or just as a child actor. For Gerald, its reality TV, and it scars him big time. Every single thing he did as a child, all that bad, has been broadcast all over TV, and then with the spread of the internet, all over YouTube and all that. That is scarring, and its incredibly thought provoking to think of the effect of having a child’s life broadcast on television before they can even understand what is going on, before they even get to school. Can you imagine going into school and kids already know who you are, and have seen all your bad and embarrassing moments? They can judge you before you’ve even met them, and that’s exactly what happens with Gerald and its absolutely horrifying to watch.
But for me, its even more horrifying because of the way Gerald is treated by his mother and his sister. At first you think, its just a normal teenager, who has anger issues and has a passive mother and a cruel sister, but the story goes so much farther than that. As the story goes on, you learn of the mental, physical and emotional abuse that Gerald goes through at the hands of his seriously crazy and incredibly cruel sister, and the ways in which his mother ignores it. It sickens me. Every single time that something happens (or doesn’t happen) with Tasha or his mother, I just feel so sick to my stomach, and you keep turning the pages, hoping so badly that it gets better for Gerald, that someone does something, that people stop being so incredibly passive.
And I think when Heather, the girl who works with him, comes into his life, with her own set of familial problems, she is able to make him feel worthwhile and full of love, and she makes him feel happy, when he hardly ever feels happy. I think they both kind of embrace that idea that we can’t always excuse the things our families do to us simply because they are family. The whole idea of blood is thicker than water is not always true. I love that it shows we can’t always just deal with what our family dishes out because they are our blood and we are stuck with them for life, and they are the only family you have. Sometimes you have to speak up against the harm being done, and sometimes you have to fight that. I like that the two of them come together, and go on an adventure of friendship and love and self-discovery and escape and freedom.
This book is beautiful and I was so happy to be able to experience and I really have to give thanks to Andrew Smith for that, for promoting this book and this author so much. Its a heartbreaking but eye opening story of the effects that a camera and a neglecting family can have on a child, especially as that child grows up. Its a story of self-discovery and a story of escape from the childhood traumas that can hold us back. Watching Gerald, both as a child and as a burgeoning adult, grow into himself and gain some confidence, set goals and become determined for his freedom and his escape. Such a beautiful novel, and I definitely recommend it. Its a fairly quick read, I read it in about a couple of hours, and I was so glad that I did.
5 out of 5 stars