A. S. King imagines what happens when "reality TV" meets real life in REALITY BOY.
Is it any wonder that Gerald Faust has a chip on his shoulder? Or, rather, make that not just a chip but a full-on chunk, the kind that leaves him ready for a fight at the first provocation, the kind that makes him unable to make friends or have a girlfriend or, most importantly, make amends with his parents. Gerald has, after all, been infamous since the age of five, when he was the dubious star of the television show Network Nanny. Painted as the problem child on national television, Gerald was dubbed "The Crapper" thanks to his juvenile tendency to act out his frustrations by relieving himself everywhere from the dining room table to his mother's shoe closet to his sister's bed.
"A. S. King, award-winning author of ASK THE PASSENGERS and EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, once again delivers a strong, character-driven novel that will resonate with teen readers --- even if they haven't appeared on television."
Now, years later, Gerald is still haunted by the repercussions of Network Nanny; it doesn't help that people in his home town still call him The Crapper or that his family still seems to think he's got serious problems. His mom has placed him into special education classes at school and outright laughs at him when he expresses a desire to attend college. He doesn't have any real friends, and his anger management coach has advised him against starting a relationship --- even though Gerald is more than a little interested in Hannah, a fellow concession-stand worker at the local hockey rink.
What's more, he continues to be bullied by his oldest sister Tasha, who also manipulates their entire family, especially their mother, who finds excuses for Tasha's abhorrent behavior while chastising Gerald for everything he does. It seems sometimes that Gerald's life is one endless rerun of Network Nanny, only without the crapping part. Only Gerald's middle sister Lisi admits the real story behind the "reality" show, and she's already fled their nightmare family life, attending college on the other side of the Atlantic. Can Gerald take control of his situation before he loses control of himself?
A. S. King, award-winning author of ASK THE PASSENGERS and EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, once again delivers a strong, character-driven novel that will resonate with teen readers --- even if they haven't appeared on television. Gerald's story is not (just) about coming to terms with the past; it's also about taking control of your life even when you feel most hopeless and powerless, about speaking up for yourself when everyone around you has spent your entire life twisting your words or outright ignoring your desires. REALITY BOY is a deeply sad novel, about the life-long repercussions of a twisted childhood, but it also contains at its core the hope that we can, despite everything, rewrite the tragic scripts of our lives into something more hopeful and promising.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 31, 2013