Reality Boy by A.S. King Review

Monday, September 9, 2013

Title: Reality Boy
Author: A.S. King (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: October 22, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher

Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.
Gerald is the kid that everybody knew...and that nobody knew at all. Twelve years ago, his family invited TV cameras into their home to "help" them with their struggling family dynamic, complete with off-kilter and a dysfunctional child. Little did most of the viewing population know, every single moment was carefully crafted by someone more devious and psychotic than the rest, aimed solely at placing all blame and drama on young Gerald's head. Today, those memories, and that life, haunt him still. Will he ever be able to escape his past?

In a day and age where reality TV is, oddly enough, king, Reality Boy couldn't be more relevant for the YA crowd. Yet, for some reason, this book has missed the necessary hype to get readers excited for its potential. It flew under the radar for me, as well, and I almost turned it down, but I did see some promise for another dramatic and realistic storyline from author, A.S. King. I was thoroughly impressed by the depth of this book, the internal struggle brought to light and a boy so lost in a web of false impressions that he's not even sure who he is anymore. This book, this story and this raw, gritty and emotional journey will definitely stick with me.

Guys, it's been a long time since I've read an entirely believable male protagonist. There was such a heartbreaking authenticity to Gerald's voice in Reality Boy that made his plight resonate from the very first page. I couldn't quite get a grasp on his character at first because he is so very misunderstood, and a lot of what we are offered is what the very viewers of the reality show Gerald was a part of saw. He is such a broken, battered character - not externally though - so his wounds cut much deeper and, to most, can't even be recognized. He's simply seen as damaged. But there are so many facets to Gerald's character that make this story sing because as we peel back each singed, tainted and bruised layer, we begin to see that there is a genuine and vulnerable boy underneath who, above all else, simply wants to run from the nickname "Crapper" and the traumatic past that damaged him so much. Perhaps equally strong was the portrayal of Gerald's family throughout the reality TV process. Complete with a British nanny and staged scenarios, Lisi, Gerald and their malicious older sister, Tasha, are forced to live out their young lives for the world to see, digest and regurgitate - tainted by their own impressions, which haunt both Gerald and Lisi to this day. As the story progresses, we watch as this broken, shattered boy finds someone that sees him for something other than the poisoned image from reality TV, and as Hannah gently helps mend his heart, we can't help but root for their story to finally give Gerald the happy life he so desperately deserves. Now, be aware that the romance plays second fiddle to Gerald's journey, but it's done beautifully nonetheless, and I loved it.

Overall, I was completely floored by the sheer poignance and power of Reality Boy. I hope this book doesn't remain as under-hyped as it is now, and I really hope that readers give it a shot. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

15 comments:

  1. I don't read many books with male protagonsists despite the fact that my top two series have a male lead, lol. I think I'll try this one out!

    Fab review, Melissa! <33

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    1. Thanks, Melanie! I think you'd really appreciate the depth of this one. I hope you give it a go!

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  2. Sounds like such a beautiful, heart-wrenching book. I love a believable male protagonist and sounds like this one is quite raw. I haven't heard of this book before, but I'm adding it on my review list. Thanks for a great review!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

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    1. It really is, Jeann. I was so floored by how powerful and gritty it was - it's definitely worth a read.

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  3. Phew, I'm so glad you loved this one, Melissa, as I recently received a copy and was surprised to have heard so little about it. Even though it's an A. S. King novel, it really is flying under radars, but I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much and found it a deep and meaningful read. Lovely review, dear!

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    1. Keertana, we tend to have similar thoughts on some of the best contemps out there, so I have high hopes that you'll love this one, too!

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  4. Wow, what a fascinating idea for a story! I haven't read any A.S. King novels yet, but I've heard such amazing things. This one will definitely be at the top of my TBR pile. Thanks for the review!

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  5. I rarely read books with male protagonists and I've never read anything by A.S. King, so Reality Boy seems like a great place to start. Thanks for sharing your review.

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  6. I've loved every book that I read by King so far and I'm thrilled you really enjoyed this one, Melissa. I was very lucky to grab an ARC of this one at ALA and will be reading it shortly. I love how it has a Truman Show vibe to the story.

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  7. Oh wow! 5 stars? I didn't think this book was that great at all. You definitely managed to change my mind.
    It sounds like such an emotional and intense book. Plus, I always appreciate it when an author manages to nail the male POV in a genuine way. I'm looking forward to reading this one, Melissa.
    Fantastic review!

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  8. I've read everything by King and learned to never pass up on her! I've read this one too, and loved it, just like her other books. Interesting, unique premise very well done.

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  9. WOWOWOW! I'm all over this one. This sounds absolutely amazing and something that I won't be able to put down. Now, when to read it...maybe this weekend, when I *won't* have to put it down? I'm thinking yes.

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  10. I heard about this book when the arc's when out and it was in everyone's STS post, but other than that I haven't really seen any review until now, and can I just say that after reading your review, I'm dying to read this book. Reality shows have always fascinated me, but more importantly, I'm always interested in the "how much of it is fake?" and "What are the people really like behind the screen?" questions, and I think this book is so perfect for me. I'm so happy that you loved this book. Fantastic review! :)

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  11. You're right in that this premise does sound like something that is super relevant to our current world. What an interesting premise. Perhaps the hype will pick up once the book is released? I've heard great things about King's writing. I'm not sure if this is quite the right book for me, but I do plan on reading some of her other books first and, if I end up enjoying her works as much as I suspect I will, then I'll probably read this one eventually as well!

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  12. I cannot wait to give this one a read, and I'm thrilled you liked it so much. I haven't read an AS King book, even though I own quite a few so this will be my first one.

    It's interesting how post-reality show children is becoming a trend in YA? There are two other books I saw coming out that have the same kind of idea. Just goes to show how much it's shaping our society and also thinking of "what happens after".

    Thanks for this solid review!

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