Reality Boy Review
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These days, it’s hard to escape the influence of reality TV. From the music you hear on the radio to the conversations you have around the water cooler at work, reality TV is everywhere. But in the young adult novel Reality Boy, author A. S. King explores the cost of reality TV’s over-exposure for one suburban teen.

Reality Boy catches up with Gerald Faust 12 years after reality TV made him infamous. As a child, Gerald struggled to be heard. His oldest sister, Tasha, got all of his apathetic mother’s attention, and his father was too busy working to notice. So five-year-old Gerald acted out in anger and frustration. In order to deal with the family’s issues, Gerald’s parents called in reality TV’s Network Nanny—which only made things worse.

Now, all these years later, Gerald is still angry. His family is still a mess, he has no friends, and he’s stuck in special education classes because everyone just assumes that he’s got a learning disability. Gerald’s only real goal in life is to stay out of jail—until a couple of new friends give him a new perspective on life.

It may be set up as a story about reality TV, but Reality Boy is really a story about family dysfunction—though the Faust family’s dysfunction is magnified, since it was aired on national TV. It’s a heartbreaking story about abuse and neglect—about spoiled siblings, mothers who play favorites, fathers who tune out, and those left behind.

The story of Gerald’s childhood is a heartbreaking one—one that happens all too often within families that seem to be perfectly normal. Reality TV wasn’t the beginning of Gerald’s problems; they started long before that. But it definitely didn’t help them, either. It caused him to detach himself from the real world to try to find a happier place in his own mind.

The set-up, however, poses a few troubling challenges. After all, it’s a little hard to believe that just three appearances on a reality TV show would make Gerald as widely known as the story makes him out to be. It’s more likely that the family would have made the local news—and a bunch of people would have seen the YouTube videos—but it would be all but forgotten after a while, replaced by the latest TV freaks and viral video superstars. Sure, a few kids would latch on to the story and use it against him, but people probably wouldn’t recognize him on the street—and it probably wouldn’t make him a complete outcast, either.

Still, despite a few nagging issues, Reality Boy tells a challenging but hopeful story about growing up, coming to grips with the past, and looking ahead to a brighter future. And while this coming of age tale was written with young adults in mind, it can serve as a thoughtful reality check for grown-ups, too.

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