What are your demands?
Title: Reality Boy
Author: A. S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Source: SLJ Summer Virtual Conference
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.
Go get a thesaurus and look up all the synonyms to the word “amazing.” There. Those are all the words you would need to describe Reality Boy. Well okay, those plus “fascinating,” “disturbing,” and “fantastically well written.” Reality Boy may actually be my favorite book of 2013. A. S. King was a new author for me, and if this book is any indication of how good her other books are, I am a major fan.
I found this story incredibly fascinating, as well as disturbing, as mentioned above. I have an interest in YA books about reality tv, but this is the first realistic book I’ve read on that subject. Gerald’s story is especially pertinent in today’s world with shows exploiting children like Toddlers & Tiaras, and it provides a frightening, intense glimpse at how this can effect children for the rest of their lives.
Of particular interest to me were the parts about anger management therapy. For whatever reason, I found reading about the strategies and advice Gerald got from his anger management therapist really intriguing. There were a lot of times when I felt like the advice Gerald got from his anger management therapist was flawed, like when he tells Gerald he needs to think less about himself. To me, it was clear that he didn’t understand Gerald’s situation at all, otherwise he would’ve understood that Gerald had to think about himself so he could figure out how to survive in a house with his psychopathic sister.
Tasha was another interesting, upsetting aspect of Reality Boy. All of the scenes with Tasha are done remarkably well, and A. S. King definitely has a talent for writing scenes that will both make her readers uncomfortable and make them think. King also did an excellent job unfolding Tasha’s negative influence on the family in a way that created a lot of suspense. In a weird way, I loved seeing Tasha and the rest of Gerald’s family unravel, because I was fascinated by Tasha’s violence and master manipulation. Though I loved Gerald and found him a highly compelling protagonist, Tasha’s part in the story was another thing that kept me up all night reading last weekend.
Even though Reality Boy is a very dark story, it does has its romantic and healing moments as well. From the first time Gerald mentions the girl at register #7, I was rooting for their relationship. When it finally happened, I was super excited, and thought their relationship was really genuine and sweet. They both learn a lot of things from one another, and the part where they write their list of demands was really emotional and empowering.
In short, Reality Boy was wildly good, and I’ll probably be recommending it to everyone I know for a while. It’s dark but also has moments of hope, and is one of the most unique books I’ve read this year.