Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: Reality Boy

Reality Boy
By A.S. King
Published 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Gerald did not have the best childhood - but you probably know that. After all, pretty much everyone he's ever known watched some of his childhood antics on that TV show with the nanny. But Gerald isn't five anymore; he can't deal with his anger the same way he did then. So, how will Gerald deal?

I've been hearing about this book all year and there was no way I was going to miss it - I think King has been doing some of the most interesting writing in YA lit. When I spotted the e-galley, I downloaded it immediately and read it as soon as possible.

This was a hard book for me to read. I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I love reading stories about sibling relationships, particularly dysfunctional ones. I love them, but they are also difficult for me. I did not have a good relationship with my brother as I grew up; he was significantly older than me, and struggled a lot with various issues. I seek out stories about similar relationships because I like to see how true they feel to me. I like to know that I wasn't alone in this difficult relationship. This book hit particularly close to home for me. We were never the subject of a TV show, but as I got older, I wondered if we should be. In many ways, I felt like Gerald, though I don't think I ever made the same behavioral decisions he did. I was the younger child, and I was angry a lot of the time at my older sibling, a sibling who (I felt) tortured me, a sibling I didn't think loved me. My brother never tried to drown me, or even hit me for that matter, like Tasha does. But I recognized a lot of the dysfunction in their family. I imagine people who didn't grow up with this sort of sibling relationship will be horrified and perhaps even find this difficult to believe. And yes, even though I did experience some of this dysfunction myself, I still occasionally found myself thinking, "How can his mother behave this way?" And yet, I know how.

Another thing that I liked about this is how King reminds us that these people from reality television are actually people: their lives don't begin and end with the show. Similarly, reality television is NOT ACTUAL REALITY. It's a carefully edited (and often scripted) version of reality. It is easy for us, as consumers of the product, to forget these things. I think King does a great job of reminding us of them without shoving them down our throat.

I feel conflicted about the relationship with Hannah. On the one hand, it seems too quirky and charming. On the other, I love the level of tension it added to the story. I felt like I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Hannah to cross the line and Gerald to snap completely. I feel like I read every word of their interactions with my breath held.

I don't know how King does what she does - every one of her books is written so well and is so believable. I hope she continues to write for many years to come - I will always pick up her books.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

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