From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-When 16-year-old Gerald was 5, his parents made a contract to appear on a reality television show where a stage nanny offered techniques to mend their beyond-repair family. Gerald was targeted as the problem child when it was actually his psychopathic sister, Tasha, who was the true menace. His parents turned a blind eye, repeatedly allowing their firstborn to torment and threaten the lives of Gerald, sister Lisi, and even the mother while the edited television broadcasts skewed the truth. At first, readers will be taken aback when they learn that little on-camera Gerald defecated on Tasha's and his mother's belongings, earning him the infamous nickname "Crapper," but they will soon realize that in his young mind it was his only weapon of defense in a desperate situation. The horror and injustice of it all follow insecure, agry Gerald into his teens. So does fearsome, unemployed Tasha when she moves into the family's basement with her boyfriend, has loud and regular sex, and is still enabled by their parents. When Gerald warily falls in love with Hannah, a schoolmate and coworker with family troubles of her own, "kidnapping" themselves by running away together seems their only recourse to wake up their parents. King's trademarks-attuned first-person narrative, convincing dialogue, realistic language, and fitting quirkiness-connect effectively in this disturbing, yet hopeful novel. Not since Norma Fox Mazer's disquieting When She Was Good (Scholastic, 1997) has an emotionally and mentally deranged sibling and dysfunctional parents wreaked such havoc on a main character who still manages to survive and grow beyond it.-Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, COα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Seventeen-year-old Gerald became infamous at age five, when he took a dump on his family’s kitchen table for the whole reality-TV viewing public to see. A network TV nanny came in to help Gerald be less of a problem child, but the cameras didn’t catch what Tasha, his older sister and tormentor, was doing to him and his other sister, Lisi, or his mother’s constant defense of her eldest daughter at the expense of her youngest children. And so Gerald continued to rage on. Though years of anger-management training and a boxing-gym regimen have helped him gain better control, his future still feels limited to jail or death. The narrative, though striking and often heartbreaking, is disjointed in places, namely with Gerald’s grand plan to run away to the circus. However, this is still a King novel, and the hallmarks of her strong work are there: magical realism, heightened emotion, and the steady, torturous, beautiful transition into self-assured inner peace. Like Gerald, it’s wonderfully broken. Grades 9-12. --Courtney Jones