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I Belong

Review: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reality BoyTitle: Reality Boy

Author: A.S. King

Genre: YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction

Series: N/A

Publication Date: September 23, 2014

Format: Paperback, 400 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316222712 (LB Teen)

ISBN-13: 978-0316222716 (LB Teen)

Reviewed by: Zed


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.

Quick & Dirty: The truth behind ‘reality TV.’

Opening Sentence: I’m the kid you saw on TV.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Reality Boy explores how difficult it is to change someone’s perspective following fame from a reality TV show. Gerald is (in)famous for being the ‘crapper;’ the kid that pooped everywhere on reality TV because of his behavioural issues. As a teenager, he hasn’t been able to rid himself of that persona and has spent his life unsuccessfully trying to change his image in a town that does not forget.

“So where to, then, Ger?” Dad asks, swirling his drink with his index finger.
I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to do anything, really. I just want a chance to start over and have a real life. One that wasn’t fucked up from the beginning and broadcast on international TV like a freak show.

It took a while for this book to grow on me but eventually I started understanding the main character. I felt for Gerald because although he really does have anger management issues, most of them stemmed from being the highlight of reality TV. He is constantly struggling to stay in control and keep his anger checked but is emotionally scarred from having his privacy violated as a child. Everyone has seen the show but no one realises that it was mostly staged. They just see a kid throwing tantrums and entertaining viewers by pooping in his mum’s shoes. Viewers do not see a little boy living with a psychopath for a sister and parents that either don’t care or pretend to see anything wrong with their messed up family.

Given what he went through, it was inevitable for Gerald to be slightly ‘different.’ However, I sympathised with his character because Gerald is constantly mocked for being the crapper. It’s almost like everyone is pushing him to the edge so he becomes that angry child again and creates a scene; which is something Gerald struggles not to do every single day.

But no matter how much anger management coaching I’ve had, I know that if I had a gun, I’d shoot Nichols in the back as he walks away with his beer. I know that’s murder and I know what that means. It means I’d go to jail. And the older I get, the more I think maybe I belong in jail. There are plenty of angry guys like me in jail. It’s like, anger central. If we put together all the jails in this country and made a state out of them, we could call that state Furious.

It was odd reading about a victim of bullying that can defend himself all too easily but the only thing that prevents him from snapping is not wanting to go to jail. Gerald’s calm reflection on whether or not to kill his mum or sister was disconcerting to read but it helped to better understand him. His behaviour isn’t excusable, clearly he isn’t getting the medical help he needs, but his past helps to identify with his situation. I shouldn’t feel sorry for Gerald because of his murderous fantasies but when he describes how his family treated him as a child, how his sister tried drowning him at the age of three, it’s no wonder he’s unhinged!

I don’t know. Something snapped, I guess. After five years of locking myself in my room with no one remotely concerned about that fact, and then a year and a half of being called the Crapper, I ate a kid’s face. Sometimes these things happen.

It was tough to read how Gerald is considered to be the ‘trouble child’ on the TV show, when his erratic behaviour is actually because of his nutcase of a sister provoking him behind the scenes. Tasha was probably the evilest sibling I have ever read about; constantly bullying him, taking pleasure in his pain and generally making his life hell. I wasn’t in the least bit surprised to learn that she was a psychopath because no person in their right mind would be entertained by suffocating their baby brother!

I felt older than seven.
What other seven-year-old could claim he’d escaped being murdered by his own sister at least a dozen times? What other seven-year-old could claim that when he went to school, he was seen as part movie star and part maniac?

Hannah and Gerald’s romance / friendship was unusual because they clearly have their quirks and a lot of emotional baggage. They are both dealing with issues and aren’t mentally all there, so technically shouldn’t really be in a relationship, but can’t help it. It’s not romantic in the sense that one isn’t saving the other, and they often argue because of their unique ways of dealing with problems, but I liked the truth of it. Their relationship takes a huge amount of effort but it’s obvious that Gerald and Hannah are made for each other.

She tips her head to the side and frowns at me a little. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Sure. Gym sucks, that’s all.”
“Mightily,” she says. “Indeed.”
Who else would say that? Gym sucks mightily indeed. I love her.

There are an increasing number of books on mental illness / family related issues, and Reality Boy shares a unique and interesting take on this issue. It was a leeeetle tricky to enjoy from the beginning, but once I found the story’s rhythm, it became a noteworthy read.

Notable Scene:

And the harder I cry, the more she hugs me and the softer she is. The longer I cry, the more I realize what’s happening.

I am being hugged. In ten years, I have been recognized, scrutinized, analyzed, criticized, and even terrorized by a handful of the millions of Network Nanny viewers. Never was I hugged.


FTC Advisory: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers provided me with a copy of Reality Boy. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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