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Reality Boy Hardcover – October 22, 2013
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
I wasn't quite sure about Reality Boy in the beginning since there's a lot of talk about poop. But I suppose that's the life Gerald is living, since nobody who knows him can seem to let go of the little boy who pooped on the dining room table, in a fitting room, and in his mother's shoes over ten years ago. This had become what has defined him. But really it was sooo much poop! Like, we get it! He's the Crapper! Can we get to the root of the issue now?! I also got quickly annoyed with how the "nanny"'s accent was written. She's British, but she didn't read as British. I don't even know what kind of accent I was reading her as, but it definitely wasn't British. Random words are exaggerated to show off her Britishness but it didn't work. Maybe that's how she sounded to five year old Gerald, but five year old Gerald is not telling this story! Stating she was British would have been plenty.
Anyway, onto the core of Reality Boy. I hate Gerald's entire family. His mother is the one who wrote to the show for help, since she had an angry little boy on her hands and didn't know what to do. Or really, she didn't want to do anything. She wanted to pass her problem on to someone else. Well, that obviously didn't work, since no one tried to fix the source of Gerald's misbehavior. His oldest sister tried to kill him! Several times! She terrorizes him! Whenever he tells on her, she lies and their mother believes her, and just assumes he's retarded (no I am not joking) even though she slaps her mom around, too! WTF! So, you can see why I was so frustrated reading this story. His mother is a horrid person! I'm sure stuff like this happens in real life, but holy crap, was it hard to read about! Gerald is suffering at the hands of his own sibling, and his mother just doesn't care. And his father isn't totally oblivious, but stays away from it. At least Gerald's other sister managed to escape.
There is a romance in Reality Boy, and yes, I hated her too. Well, hate is probably too strong of a word to describe my feelings toward Hannah. I just really didn't like her, and found her extremely annoying, especially when she starts professing her love for Gerald after like a day. But he's been in love with her from afar too, so I don't know. But she always moping around about how her father works at a junkyard, finding parts for people. Like that's such a huge problem. I know suffering isn't a competition, and your problems are your own, and there was more going on with her. But she really did bring up the "junkman's daughter" thing ALL THE TIME. It was like with the poop. Just shut up already! Gosh!
Reality Boy clearly left an impression on me. I can't say that I liked it, because it's just so infuriating, but I guess it's good that the author managed to get me so involved in Gerald's life. Since like I said earlier, I was more mad for him, rather than mad at the book for being bad or anything, despite my complaints. I'm glad that I read it. I don't know that I could recommend it. It's definitely something different and gets you thinking and maybe super emotionally involved like me. I really don't know. It's just one of those books that's hard to explain.
In Reality Boy, Gerald's family was already fractured before the cameras came into the house when he was five. But his parents wanted a new kitchen, and Gerald and his brother and sister must fall in line. As with most of these reality shows, not much is real. The producers give the family the basic premise: "The kids misbehave and don't listen. The on-site Nanny (who's actually an actress) will help to fix everything." Then the whole family played their parts; there were conflicts and resolutions that needed to run through their full cycles before the cameras stopped filming. Little Gerald's response was to express his displeasure by defecating on top of tables, in his mother's shoes, and on his sister's toys. By the time the producers left, Gerald's family was even more messed up than they were to begin with.
As a seventeen-year-old, Gerald still feels the effects of the experience. He's full of rage, he's commonly known as Crapper, and he's friendless as a result. His older sister, Tasha, is a sociopath or a psychopath. His parents, and in particular his mother, have always turned a blind eye to the sadistic abuse Tasha inflicted upon Gerald. His other sister, the only person in the family who seems to care about Gerald, fled the country to go to college the first moment she could.
Although there are people in the world who suffer far worse than Gerald, aka Crapper, but A.S. King makes us feel every bit of his suffering. And we root for him, because it's clear he desperately wants to escape his Reality Boy past. When he meets "Register # 1 Girl" (Hannah) while they are both working at a concessions stand, Gerald initially sees a pretty girl. But as they get to know each other, Gerald learns Hannah also feels trapped by her life, and she wants to escape just as much as he does.
The scenes of abuse committed by Tasha are very hard to read. But most of my anger was directed at their mother who knew it was happening and didn't stop it. I hope that doesn't dissuade anyone from reading, because the real highlight is Gerald's desire to overcome his past and find happiness outside of his screwed-up family. The loveliest scene is when a stranger approached the concession stand and informs Gerald that she recognizes him. I won't say anymore than that, because it's so moving, and you should experience it first-hand.
I was on a video chat with A.S. King this week, and she speaks in the same no b-s way in which she writes. And it was very evident how much she cares for her characters. I was impressed enough with her writing in this book that I purchased four of her earlier books.
Note - I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.