Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reality Boy by A.S. King
Little, Brown and Co.
On shelves now!
Reviewed by: Honorary Sis Sarah P.
Sisters say: Awesome premise, inventive voice. Another important book from A.S. King.

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.

A.S. King is the prizewinning author of Please Ignore Vera Dietz and other serious YA fiction. And when I saw that her newest book was about a teen-aged former reality TV "star," I knew I would read it. No liemy little nerd heart was waiting for a hard hitting YA take on our culture's obsession with reality TV. It seemed like a topic overripe for the plucking. Musically, my favorite take in the subject is Jack Johnson's Good People. When he sings "we got heaps and heaps of what we sow," I'm right there with him.

Reality Boy delivers on the darkness of its premise. And even though a nanny show is premise enough for a novel, the author does it one better. The true cause of Gerald's miserable life is not what the cameras captured, but what they missed. Gerald's psychopathic sibling was the root of the evil, and neither his mother nor the in-and-out production team would take the time to call it what it was.

This book is a great read, but the middle of it is necessarily grim. In the depths of his journey, it is easy to despair along with Gerald. Nothing is likely to change for him, because more than a decade of evidence suggests that nothing can. I had to push through those parts (much as the character does) to reach the powerful and very poignant ending. Along the way, King's writing sparkles with wit and dark humor. Her take on a teen-aged boy and his high school setting feels very fresh and real, without a cliche in sight.