Reality Boy by A. S. King – Reviewed by Brian Wyzlic
In the book world, as in the world of many creative arts made for mass consumption, there is often a buzz that will follow particular works. The new Lady Gaga album. The movie of The Fault in Our Stars. The finale to the Mara Dyer trilogy. Sometimes, these meet expectations (The Raven Boys). Sometimes, they fail so spectacularly they become the butt of jokes for years (Gigli).
And sometimes, they blow the expectations out of the water.
This past spring, I was fortunate to attend an A.S. King event at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. She was phenomenal, and I gained a whole new respect for her as an author and as a person. While there, she read a bit from her fall release, Reality Boy. I knew at that point that this was one I had to read. The crowd was awed by this book. There was a buzz in the room.
This past summer, I was fortunate to attend the American Library Association conference. While there, I stopped by the Little, Brown booth to inquire about an ARC of Reality Boy. They didn’t have any available for me at that moment, as it was so popular they were holding off until the next day to release it. There was a buzz at the conference.
Later in the summer, I was able to obtain a copy of the ARC. When I opened my mail, I was so excited I skipped back to my front door, alarming my neighbors. There was a buzz in the parking lot.
The question remained: would the book meet the buzz?
Reality Boy is the story of a child reality TV star who was on a show called Network Nanny. This was one of those “we’ll bring in a nanny to set your children right” shows. This particular child, Gerald, had a habit of speaking out against the craziness of his family. But he didn’t use his mouth. No, Gerald chose to use the other end of his body. He pooped.
He pooped on the table. He pooped in shoes. He pooped in the dressing room at the store. This is his story.
Oh, and did I mention that Gerald is now 17, dealing with the fallout from having his 5-year old self displayed against his will on the TV screens of every American household, including those whom he now has to go to school with, work with, and try to be friends with?
Do you hear that? It’s the buzz.
Gerald is now in anger management, has been in jail, and is essentially just a punching bag for everyone’s jokes. But, like all of our students who may fit that same mold, he is still a person. He is still attracted to cute girls (though he knows that he shouldn’t date them). He is still a son in a family (though the family is so messed up the home life reminds me of the Naturalism present in the family of Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets). He is still someone striving to fit in (though how can you fit in when everyone – EVERYONE – knows you as The Crapper?). And the girl who works at the other end of the stadium refreshment stand just won’t stay out of his mind.
A.S. King takes us on a marvelous journey, with her at this point trademark sarcasm and wit, into the reality of reality TV. I could not put this book down. I had to, to sleep, but even then I was fighting my body because I didn’t want to stop. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but this is one you definitely want to check out. It will be a great addition to any high school classroom library. When it hits shelves on October 22, be certain to pick this up immediately. If you wait too long, they’ll be gone.
As for the buzz? Well, I think we may have an answer to that in January at ALA’s midwinter meetings.
Brian Wyzlic is a high school English teacher in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. He is hoping that A.S. King will see this review and be so taken by it that she will immediately agree to visit his school. Ms. King, her publicist, or anyone else may reach Brian at @brianwyzlic on Twitter, at his blog (which he thinks he might keep regularly updated!) at wyzreads.wordpress.com, or by phone for those who have that number. Brian is repped by himself, which would be a full-time job if he had anything to promote.