Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):  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.

And here's what I thought:  I admit that I don't really watch much reality tv based on people's personal lives.  What I mean is, I watch Top Chef and American Pickers, and once in a while, I admit to a few episodes of Counting Cars and House Hunters International.   But, I don't have much interest in watching any of the Housewives or the Karsdashians.  Just not my thing.

However, when I read about this book a few months ago (when I ordered if for my library), I was completely intrigued.  Because even though I don't watch reality TV shows that focus on the personal lives of people, it doesn't mean that I'm not aware of them.  And I sometimes wonder what life is really like for some of them, especially after the show has finished.   This book takes that premise and gives us Gerald, a young man who is working on managing his anger issues, and just getting through his life. His family is completely dysfunctional (and actually, a little hard to believe .... but then, if you think about some of the f-'d up families on TV, maybe not too hard to believe after all), and it's easy to see why Gerald is so angry.

What I found really compelling about the book is that you have this 17 year-old who is talking about what's going on his present-day life, but reflecting back on moments when he was 5, and on camera all the time.  It's a perfect way to see how much his life has been shaped by what happened when he was a small child, and how, even now, as a young adult, he is still struggling.   The author has a way of making everything seem very realistic, and Gerald's a very sympathetic character.   The way that he reacts to not only his family, but the other kids at school (who, of course, think they know everything about him, since they watched the TV show), and even strangers he encounters.   In fact, the one encounter he has with a woman at a hockey game is one of the most touching moments in the book (at least, I thought so).

And speaking of characters, while Gerald is compelling, the supporting characters are really well-written, as well. His one sister, Tasha, who is his main tormenter, is seriously scary -- sociopath scary.  And his mom is scary in a different way, because she seems to tune out everything and act like Tasha's perfectly fine.  Reading about them is like seeing a car crash on the side of the road; you don't really want to look, but you kinda can't stop yourself.

I really enjoyed this book, even as I worried sometimes for Gerald, because I got completely caught up in it.  I found myself wanting to reach out and give this kid a hug, because I felt that connected.

First lines:  I'm the kid you saw on TV.  Remember the little freak who took a crap on his parents' oak-stained kitchen table when they confiscated his Game Boy?  Remember how the camera cleverly hid his most private parts with the glittery fake daisy and sunflower centerpiece?  That was me.  Gerald.  Youngest of three.  Only boy.  Out of control.


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