Sep 10, 2013

Reality Boy by A.S. King Review

Reality Boy by A.S. King
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers; 368 pages

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.

Before I sat down to read Reality Boy.  I started to wonder when reality tv really started.  I remembered when I started watching MTV's the Real World in 1998.  I was in middle school, but the show actually started years before I started watching.  The first season I watched of the Real World was The Real World Seattle.  And I loved it.  I loved it so much that I made sure I watched every season before Seattle when MTV played reruns.  I am not ashamed to admit that I have watched the first 12 seasons of The Real World.  I was addicted to watching "real people" and their "real lives"  As I got older I realized how unreal this show actually was.  Even though in the show's defense, I honestly believe the first few seasons weren't as manipulated by the producers as the show currently is.  There is just so many things that happen behind the scenes, and in current seasons the people they pick to be on this show have such outlandish and unique personalities that I would not call the show real.

The Real World started in 1992, but the late 90s was when reality television really peaked.  Reality Boy gives us the story of what happens after the cameras stop rolling.  At the young age of five, Gerald Faust along with his sisters Tasha and Lisi were filmed for a television series called Network Nanny.  On the show Gerald was shown as the troubled kid who defecated around his house on his parents and his sister Tasha's belongings.  Now I am not gonna lie, when I first read this I burst out laughing.  I thought this was funny, because it is funny.  But Gerald's story is not really humorous.  And as I continued to read the book, I realized that this book is definitely not a comedy.  Currently Gerald is seventeen and the television show has basically ruined his childhood.  His town calls him "The Crapper" and he's been ridiculed and judged so much that he has been unable to make friends.  His oldest sister Tasha has been violent and vindictive to him and his sister Lisi, that it's caused him to have anger problems.  

To escape this Gerald often goes into a fantasy world that he calls Gersday.  Gersday is a part of Gerald's imagination.  I think everyone has had their own version of Gersday.  I definitely do.  It's a place you can go to get away from the hard times of everyday life.  But as you read, you realize that Gersday is really unhealthy.  He loses touch with reality at times because he gets so deep into Gersday.  But it's a coping mechanism for him.  As a reader you can't help but sympathize for him.  I can't tell you how many times I just wanted to give him a hug.  In reality television, you only see what the producers choose for you to see.  It's about as real as a mannequin.  I cringe at the thought of my childhood being filmed.  No one's life should be entertainment for someone else.

Gerald has a love interest as well.  Gerald works concession at an arena, and he has a crush on a coworker who he called Register #1 Girl (she works on the first register).  Register #1 Girl aka Hannah has issues of her own.  They both grew up with everyone around them thinking that they know them because of the public's misconception of them.  I liked Gerald and Hannah's relationship.  It was very realistic, the two of them getting involved didn't make their problems go away.  But it definitely helped both of them open up and learn to trust.  You often read YA stories, and once the main character falls in love they become so consumed with that person, they lose themselves.  I didn't feel this was the case with Gerald and Hannah.  They both quickly learned that while they can help each other, they can't become each other.

Reality Boy sends a positive message about not giving up.  That even when you feel that the world is against you, and you have no one to lean on it will get better.  It's a quick and easy read that will make you laugh at parts, but also show you the seriousness of not judging people based on what you've seen or heard.  That even if someone is on a reality television show, that doesn't necessarily mean that you know them.  And even if they are portrayed as a villain on television, they are still a person.  A person with feelings and emotions.

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