Author: A.S. King
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary
Synopsis: 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.
Would I Recommend? To someone who’s looking for a different, out-of-the-box contemporary.
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Ever since I heard praises about King’s work, I wanted to read this book because for some reason, this was the only one that stood out. The premise sounded very intriguing, very different from anything I’ve ever read before, so I went into this expecting a thought-provoking, meaningful read. And, to some extent, I got that.
Reality Boy follows a seventeen year-old boy who has spent his entire life angry and bitter. Gerald was put on national reality television when he was a toddler- a toddler who had anger issues, a bully of a sister and a passion for vengeance. Because of his antics on TV, Gerald is forever dubbed as ‘the Crapper’ in his community. As you can imagine, school hasn’t been easy with that nickname. Nor has it done anything for his insecurities. Put all that with a neglectful mother and you get a very, very angry young man.
I’ve never read anything quite like this before. The premise is very interesting. A.S. King follows through with delivering a powerful story about how a young boy’s life is so heavily impacted by being in the public eye as a child. She had the perfect balance between showing us the different walks of Gerald’s life. I especially enjoyed how she moved back and forth between Gerald’s present and his past. I did, however, enjoy the flashbacks (when Gerald was actually on television) more than I enjoyed his present. I thought the family dynamics in the flashbacks offered more insight into the story and the characters than anything in the present. I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if the flashbacks outnumbered the present-day events.
But kudos to A.S. King for dealing with a lot of sensitive issues, most of which are often overlooked by the general public. I have never thought about how a child is impacted while he/she grows up in the public eye, and this book offered some very real, very important insight into that issue. Not only that, but she also discusses how important a healthy family structure is in a situation where a child feels alienated and angry.
I enjoyed most of the characterization. Gerald was a good enough character; he doesn’t particularly stand out for me, but I did like him. King gave him a very strong voice that remained consistent throughout. I could almost picture his reactions and expressions in certain situations because of how strong his voice was. However, I do wish that King had utilized empathy more than she utilized sympathy; I felt sorry for Gerald, and I don’t like pitying characters I read.
King is wonderful when she writes unlikable characters. I absolutely hated Gerald’s sister and mother. I despised them with a burning passion, and I don’t think an author has been able to evoke such strong emotions from me since JK Rowling came up with Dolores Umbridge. But even though I hated them as people, I can fully understand their importance to the overarching story, which is what makes them great characters.
I wasn’t invested in Gerald’s romantic life whatsoever. I didn’t care for his love interest, Hannah. They didn’t have any chemistry; their relationship felt forced and unrealistic. Hannah was insensitive and inconsiderate. And since a lot of the book focuses on Gerald’s budding relationship with Hannah, it just didn’t work out for me.
A.S. King is a fabulous writer. She establishes voice with authority, and she is consistent with how she does it. Her voice then builds up her characters, who are well-developed even when they aren’t likable. She writes with fluidity and poise; nothing feels like fluff. Everything feels like it was there for a reason. And even though this book was the only one that stood out for me initially, I’ll definitely be picking up something else by her.