Sunday, October 6, 2013
Reality Check: Reality Boy
LB Teen, Expected Release Date: October 22, 2013
*ARC Provided by publisher, requested at ALA 2013 - Thank You!*
I'm captivated by stories, be them in books, in movies, or on TV. But one genre of the television world that I've never been able to get into is reality TV. Despite its name, it always seems so completely inauthentic to me. So when I found out that A.S. King was exploring that very idea and world in Reality Boy, of course I had to read it.
Gerald Faust was five years old when he became famous. That was when his mom invited a TV crew into their home and he became known as The Crapper - the angry and terrible little boy who pooped in random places to get attention, at least that's how the show made it look. Now 17, he's still filled with a violent rage that consumes him and has shaped his life. Despite how hard he works, it's like everyone is still watching him, waiting for him to really go over the edge, and he's getting dangerously close to it.
King has a knack for writing the stories that people need to read and hear, but most people are probably uncomfortable talking about, and this novel is no exception. Gerald is a fantastic character in that he holds nothing back except for his temper, which despite his track record he really is trying to work on. This story unfolds with great pacing, alternating between present day Gerald and the multiple times TV crews came into his house. It didn't take long for Gerald to win me over as an obvious victim of other people's greed, terror, and fear. His sister Tasha is horrifying from the start, and by the end I was terrified. I loved the relationship Gerald had with his other sister Lisi and would have liked to see more of it, but if you read the book you'll understand why that isn't possible. And while Gerald himself scared the crap out of me sometimes with his violent outbursts and while he isn't always the most likable guy, he has amazing growth in trying to fit the pieces of his life together with people who actually care about him, which is a message everyone should hear.
Another part of this story that I also want to applaud King on his her positive portrayal of special education in schools, both in terms of the students in these classes as well as the teachers who dedicate their professional lives to it. Some of my dearest friends are SPED teachers and as a librarian in a high school, I work with students in SPED all the time, and it was great to see this part of schools and life that people often feel awkward or uncomfortable talking about pictured so well.
If you are looking for a story that rips reality TV apart, examines anger, family dynamics, and relationships, and packs a punch, check out Reality Boy. This novel has grit (not to mention swearing, situations, and violence that some readers and parents might not be the most comfortable with) so while I probably wouldn't recommend it to younger YA readers, I can't wait to see it in the hands of my high school students.
Comments welcome, and as always, happy reading!
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