Reality Boy, by A.S. King

ImageI despise reality television. Always have. Now, I’m not talking about American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, which are innocuous enough, but rather the shows that put an assortment of poor or wealthy degraded types into a dwelling together and encourage them to act as if they’ve never had a parent. Perhaps it would have been better if they never had. In any case, they are mean and hateful toward one another, cursing, fighting, caring about material things more than people, wearing insufficient clothing, and having injudicious sexual encounters. I despise them because I fear that some less-educated, morally deprived Americans (i.e., about 80% of the population) may wish to emulate them because they think that they’re cool. They’re not cool. They are vermin and should be exterminated.

The very worst of reality TV people put their own children on television. If you don’t think that this is a good enough reason to remove these children from their parents, you will after you read Reality Boy. Gerald’s family was part of a reality TV show beginning when he was five years old and continuing for a couple of years. There was a fake nanny with a fake British accent who tried to rearrange their fake lives and improve his behay-vyah. She refused to believe him and his sister, Lisi, when they told her that their oldest sister, Tasha, was trying to kill them. Tasha was able to perform all of her evil deeds off-camera, so that America’s viewers only saw Gerald fighting back. So, Gerald grew up being labeled as a terror with learning disabilities, when he was really just a normal boy who wanted to live. Needless to say, when we meet Gerald just before his seventeenth birthday, he has years of really ineffective anger management classes under his belt. He goes to special ed. classes, even though he can do linear equations without thinking. His mother and his therapist have convinced him that he’ll never do anything with his life, and his highest goal is to avoid jail time. They’ve also convinced him that he should never have a girlfriend, since he would probably beat her or kill her. So when he works his job as cashier #7 at the hockey rink refreshment stand, he only stares in longing at The Girl at Register #1 and slips off into Gersday, an imaginary world he’s created where everything is perfect and there’s an endless supply of strawberry ice cream. Lisi, in the meantime, has moved to Scotland.

Now is a good time to let you know that Reality Boy is not for anyone who is sensitive to foul language or some of the more deviant of human behaviors. Tasha is truly a piece of work, and part of her problems manifest as sexual addiction when she’s not trying to murder someone. Their parents are completely dysfunctional and hopeless. I doubt that I would have read this book if I did not already love A.S. King, and if I had not become so angry at everyone in Gerald’s life that I had to see if he would ever be able to unwrap the plastic coating he had mentally wrapped himself in. Jail was looking really likely there for a while. I found myself identifying with the hockey mom who comes up to the refreshment stand one night, recognizes him, and gives him a big, sympathetic hug.

If you have the constitution, it is a riveting story with great characters, and it will make you furious. For older teens and adults in October, 2013.

Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book. My opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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