Friday, April 25, 2014

Reality Boy by A.S. King Review

Reality Boy by A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: October 22, 2013

368 Pages
Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

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.
 (from Goodreads) 

Reality Boy by A.S. King

My Thoughts:   Reality Boy by A.S. King features one of the strongest main characters I've probably ever read in young adult contemporary fiction, or maybe in any type of book. 


Gerald Faust is an angry teen. He works an average job and seems to be an average kid, but he really is not. He actually has a pretty interesting past that comes from playing a "role" on a reality television show back when he was a young boy. And when he was on that television show, Gerald did something that kids do sometimes and never lived it down. Because of this, he became known as The Crapper, and this has followed him around like a shadow for his entire life. 

Not only is being known as The Crapper the worst thing ever, but Gerald's family is the worst thing ever. His mother is awful because she lets his awful sister do whatever she wants. His father is awful because he never says anything to his awful mother or his awful sister - he just lets awful things happen and doesn't ever stand up to anyone. His other sister is awful because she had the guts to get away when she could - she went to college - and she left him there in that awful house to deal with things on his own. 

So Gerald is angry. He spends most of his time trying not to beat people up, to talk himself out of going to jail for beating people up. Because they deserve it. Because they're all awful. But then that one girl that works with Gerald - the cute one - she starts talking to him and pays attention to him and treating him like he's not so bad. And then one random stranger hugs him. So Gerald realizes here and there, in between long periods of anger and feeling awful, that maybe life isn't as bad as he thinks it is. Maybe he has some control over his life. Maybe he can do something about his situation. And maybe he isn't as awful as his mother always told him he was. Maybe he is more than just The Crapper. 


Gerald and his anger. WOW. As a child, Gerald was on one of the reality television shows most of us have heard of or seen that feature a dysfunctional family and a nanny that comes in to help that family. The nanny that comes in to help Gerald's family doesn't seem to be able to do much with his family, though, because his parents (read: his mother) is resistant to the suggested changes and his father is too passive to take a stand to help the family out. Unbeknownst to the world, one sister bullies Gerald and the other sister relentlessly - but it is never aired on television. The world only sees Gerald as The Crapper because he pooped in an inappropriate place once as a means for attention...and the network played it up...and chose to air only certain scenes...and assigned everyone in the family a persona that didn't really match who that person really was. 

This caused Gerald to have a really messed-up childhood and adolescence, and his teen years are still pretty screwed up. His entire family is still wildly dysfunctional. He pretty much hates them and his anger is the driving force of his life. He is in a "special" class at school because...well, it's really interesting why he's in that class, you see. And Gerald is having a really hard time breaking the cycle of angry. All it takes is one person to have some faith in him and be kind to him and push him to be more. And a hug from a stranger. 

I'm purposefully vague about Reality Boy because there are other reviews out there that you can read for more information if you want to. As for me, I went into reading this book knowing nothing about it and walked away from it absolutely blown away at how incredible it is. Gerald, as a character, is a force in YA Contemporary - one of the best male POV's I've ever read in my life, and one that I won't forget. He is a character that made me feel things for several reasons: I felt sad for him because he was stuck in a rut of anger that was not necessary and easy to get out of with a little bit of help. I felt like someone could have reached out to him as a young child and helped him (like the nanny, perhaps) but his dysfunctional family prevented this, and I'm sure that this happens more in our society than we realize even without the reality television part. I even felt awful that I had watched a show or two like this in the past because I felt like somehow I was a part of making Gerald into The Crapper, even though I know that isn't the case at all. I felt amazed that someone so young could hold so much bitterness and anger, and I found it almost a little bit scary. 

It is scary how much influence one person can have over another person or group of people either by doing things or by not doing things. In Gerald's case, he grew up believing things about himself because of what other people said and did or didn't do, and most of these things weren't even the truth. It took him years to realize that he was powerful enough to create his own life, to be his own person, to shake off labels that people try to put on him. The message in this book is INCREDIBLY POWERFUL. Getting to that point - well, it was hard. I could not stand several other characters in this book but it was because I was so attached to Gerald. And I was attached to Gerald despite his absolute anger at everyone and everything. Gerald would have likely been angry that I was emotionally attached to him, if the truth is told. I loved the point in the book when he began to open up a little bit to his friend and then especially when he experienced the kindness of a stranger - this is when Gerald began to feel some hope mixed in with his anger. It was almost like the hope was uncomfortable for him, foreign. The anger was what he was used to and what he was comfortable with. BUT! Over the course of the book, it was like watching the anger and the hope play tug-of-war - it was hard but rewarding. 

By the time Reality Boy was over, I felt tired. I felt like I had run a marathon - Gerald exhausted me. That much anger and that many emotions inside of one person depleted me. But WOW reading his story and experiencing him as a character was SO, SO WORTH IT and I am saying solidly that he is one of the best characters I've read in a very long time. I feel like the book cover captures an image of his character perfectly - the look on that cover looks exactly like the pent-up anger I imagine Gerald feels and tries constantly to manage. 

I loved Reality Boy by A.S. King. I really don't know how to say enough good things about this one. The thing is that if you've read anything by this author, you know. YOU KNOW. And if you have not, well then I recommend you give her work a chance. It is profoundly exceptional young adult fiction and should be read by people of all ages. Period. There is a reason that she is an award-winning author.

I recommend Reality Boy by A.S. King to fans of young adult contemporary. There is a romance in this book, but it is interesting because it never overshadows the real story and the couple never becomes more important than Gerald. This author's work is incredible and there isn't much more to say than that. It needs to be read. 


Reality Boy will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary with Issues
Romance: Never overshadows main plot. No triangle. 
Family Relationships, Dysfunctional
Excellent Male POV
Reality Television

Reality Boy by A.S. King
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for these very laid-back thoughts and they are my own! Thank you Little, Brown BYR! 


Have you ever read anything by A.S. King? 

Because WOW. 

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