Title: Reality Boy
Author: A.S. King (website ★ twitter)
Pub. Date: October 22, 2013
Source: ARC via Around The World ARC Tours
Summary: 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.
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Reality-type shows seem to be a growing trend in Young Adult. A few months ago I read You Look Different in Real Life (my review), a novel about a group of children – now teens – who have been the subject of a documentary series since they were five. Reality Boy paints a far darker and grittier picture of life once the spotlight dims and the lasting effects of fame.
When he was a child, Gerald Faust’s family was selected to be featured in a Supernanny-type show, complete with a British nanny. His parents were having trouble keeping the peace in their newly bought McMansion (paid for by the show). Gerald’s antics were the highlight of each episode – leading to the unfortunate nickname Crapper – though his two sisters were not entirely innocent. Lisi was always on Gerald’s side, but it was Tasha, the oldest child, who was the real terror. She would lie and manipulate their parents into believing Gerald was always the one to blame.
Now ten years later Gerald is in Special Education (at his mother’s insistence), a constant target for bullies, and has a job handing out pretzels and beer at the hockey stadium. His homelife has all but disintegrated; Lisi got out as soon as she graduated and now lives in Scotland while Tasha left school to move back home and makes no secret about what she and her boyfriend are up to. Gerald’s parents are slowly breaking down as well. Gerald’s mother has put all of her love into Tasha and refuses to kick her out no matter what, whereas Gerald’s father has been searching for his own place.
There are only two upsides to Gerald’s life: the girl who works six registers away from him and Gersdays, his secret place inside his mind where everything goes the way he wants. Tasha doesn’t exist in Gersday, the roads are made of candy, Gerald has mastered the trapeze. While I had an extremely difficult time reading the majority of the novel, the scenes in Gersday hit me the hardest. Gerald is a hurt, damaged boy and I wanted to be like the ketchup lady and hug him.
Interspersed throughout the novel are scenes from the reality show. These chapters were my favorite both for the behind-the-scenes look at reality television and the insight into why Gerald is so angry. His childhood set him up for failure and I wanted to root for him all the more. Halfway through Gerald and Hannah make a decision to run off and join the circus and their journey was heart wrenching and a joy.
Reality Boy is NOT a happy-go-lucky read. It’s raw and open and painful. I ached for Gerald and wanted to pull that little boy out of that horrible home and away from the cameras. Although it was definitely a hard read, I’m so glad I read it. If you’re looking for an incredibly emotional novel, Reality Boy is for you.