I received this book for free from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Reality Boy by A.S. King
Published by Little Brown BfYR on October 22nd 2013
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Hachette Book Group Canada
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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.
This story was absolutely messed up and also incredibly fascinating, with one of the most dysfunctional family units I have yet to come across. Reality shows are all the rave in the recent years, Reality Boy is the best example of how these shows are the opposite of reality. Do we ever stop to think of the psychological toll they take on a child? Especially when too young to understand how life can be so unfair. Network Nanny, the show in this book, is not very far off from our own running Reality shows. How do you think the kids in Supernanny will grow up with everyone at school, in their whole town, have seen them at their worst? Imagine your childhood tantrums shown on national TV! More often than not edited out of context to make it more “entertaining” for its viewers. This is the story of Gerald – aka the Crapper.
There are many words I could use to describe this story. Traumatic. Heartbreaking. Disturbing. Unfortunate. But also with hints of hope that things could end well for our protagonist. Gerald was a trouble child, which is his mom’s excuse for having asked Network Nanny for help. They soon become the hottest entertainment of Friday night TV. Gerald, being too young to understand very much, retaliates under this pressure and change in the worst of ways – as you would expect, really. It’s a retaliation that will haunt him throughout his childhood and teen years. This story is brilliantly told in alternating past and present point-of-views where we see who Gerald is today, while simultaneously learning what happened in his childhood to make him so mentally defeated. We go back to the filming of the show: What the network has done to this family, how they manipulated the scenes, how this fake nanny actually did nothing to help them, but most importantly, we learn the truth. A 5 year old boy then, Gerald only wanted someone to fight on his side. As for the real problem: it was not Gerald, and it was all kinds of troubling.
The writing is what I loved the most in this book. It’s written in a voice of someone who has been psychologically abused by his family and a TV network. His mental state could not have been easy to portray, but A.S. took it head on. This story is harsh, yet honest and raw. It’s told through a fragmented mind, yet amazingly genuine. Some parts are strange, others are simply disturbing, all are emotionally affecting. Imagine being told by your mother, repeatedly, that you’re retarded. That the problem in your messed up family is you. Eventually you come to believe it. You are a child. Your parents are the people you look up to and believe in. My heart was breaking in two each time we went to the past and heard the thoughts of this sweet little boy. The more we learned of how he grew up, the more it took a toll on me. Having a little boy of my own, I couldn’t help from being emotionally invested in this child getting the rotten end of the stick. As a teenager, Gerald still uses several methods to escape reality. Like Gersday – an alternate reality he dozes off to whenever real life becomes too much. While we journey with him, he finds his first love, his first ray of hope, and we get to observe the mental instabilities that he’s trying to overcome.
This is the story of Gerald. The price he paid for entertainment.
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