King, A. S. Reality Boy. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2013. Print.
image from: www.as-king.com
This was an ARC (advanced reader copy) that I got at library conference a couple of years ago. I heard the author speak and thought this might be an interesting, "one day" read. During December, I kept thinking about this book--running across this book--seeing images of the book, so I decided it had to be my next read. I find it funny how books find me at the right time to read them.
This is Gerald Faust's story. When he was five, a reality television crew came to his house and filmed Network Nanny. The actress playing the nanny had no care of really helping the family. She was after the ratings. When Gerald starts saying that his older sister Tasha tried to kill him, no one believes him. He then starts retaliating by "taking a crap" at various places. These messages were great for ratings, but not so good on the now 17 year old Gerald who is known by classmates as "The Crapper."
To help Gerald cope, he creates a fantasy world called Gersday. "That's what Gersdays were all about. Happy tears. Ice cream. Mom not ignoring Lisi and me because she was too busy fussing over Tasha. That couldn't happen on a Gersday because on Gersday, Tasha didn't exist" (King 30). WOW!
But what's crazy and what's sane when everything is possible and yet nothing ever happens? (King 139).Gerald works at a concession stand, and one night a patron says, "'I am so sorry for what those people did to you'" (King 38). This is a turning point for Gerald. He's never had someone seem to understand that the show wasn't what it seemed. Someone gets that this little boy was not helped at all by the nanny. The woman hugs Gerald, and a realization happens. "I am being hugged. In ten years, I have been recognized, scrutinized, analyzed, criticized, and even terrorized by a handful of the millions of Network Nanny viewers. Never was I hugged" (King 39).
The book is divided into three parts. I marked so many things in this book like each time Tasha tried to kill Gerald (or Lisi). I marked how Gerald felt he had a family in the special ed classroom. I marked things that I couldn't believe the mother did (or didn't do) about how her oldest was destroying the entire family. The mother really made me mad. Her concerns are "what will people think...they'll think we don't care and that we don't take care of our house" (King 90). She was talking about her kitchen.
At Gerald's job, he likes "Register #1 girl" who is named Hannah. Hannah also has a tough home life. They become friends and hatch a plan to run away with the circus--really! There happens to be a circus at the venue that Gerald & Hannah work at, so they decide to follow. Hannah helps Gerald in so many ways. One thing is he starts to "demand" things. His first demand is a new mother (King 251). The list grows as he gains confidence in himself, and he realizes that he can make changes for himself.
I think King makes some great comments about reality television through the story. One of my favorite comments is "This should be a reality TV show. Except nobody would watch because it's no fun to watch normal people do normal things. Because happy stories aren't all that interesting. Because everyone wants to eat that...sandwich, or watch other people eat it, along with exotic bugs and rotten eggs and diesel fuel and everything else producers can think of to keep viewers' thumbs away from the channel button on the remote control" (King 213). So true.
The resolution of the book was satisfying. This is a book I will easily pass along to kids. Curse words are used, and there is some violence, but it does not distract from the story.
The title reference is on page 146.