By A.S. King
Available now from Little, Brown BFYR (Hachette)
Read more on my A.S. King tag
A.S. King is a literary treasure. There are few writers today who excited me half as much as her. Oh, I love a ton of authors, don't get me wrong. But King delivers both story and form, unusual and playful and satisfying.
REALITY BOY refers to Gerald Faust, who appeared multiple times on a nanny reality show when he was five. He had his reasons for acting out, not that you'd know from the show. All you'd know was that he was the Crapper. Gerald is sixteen, almost seventeen, and angry. Going-to-end-up-in-prison-if-he-doesn't-get-it-under-control angry. You see, nothing changed at home. It just got worse. Anger management and boxing have helped Gerald, but he's still hanging out on the edge.
I loved this book. Gerald's home life is horrifying. His oldest sister is a memorable, strange villain, one who might've been redeemable with better parenting. But there are some nice things. His job is usual for a teenager, selling concessions at a local event center. He has a crush on the girl who works at register #1. He has Gersday, a happy place in his head that he retreats to when things get to be too much. As his coping mechanisms start to fail, he also starts to find friends and the love and human connection he so desperately needs.
I like that REALITY BOY isn't a particularly dark book. I mean, it isn't sunshine and roses, for sure. But the story doesn't wallow in the worst moments. It's often funny, and sometimes sweet. I enjoyed how the romance worked into the plot, Gerald and his girlfriend fighting, but working through it and learning to communicate effectively with each other. Gerald, who does have real problems, is a little self-centered about noticing that other people have problems too.
Now, REALITY BOY isn't my favorite novel by A.S. King. That doesn't disqualify it from being one of the best books of the year. If you're up for an intense, emotional read, then look no farther than REALITY BOY. (And I didn't even mention how amazingly it deals with reality television and the ethics of shows starring children, who can't really consent to having their lives broadcast to millions.)