This my third A.S. King book, and I would say that it falls in the middle of the previous two I’ve read. My favourite A.S. King book is Everybody Sees The Ants, while I did not like Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. A.S. King’s books are interesting to me in that she writes about angsty teens and dysfunctional families, but does so in a way that isn’t annoying. While reading, you are genuinely able to understand where the characters’ discontent is coming from. I am very impressed with King because usually angsty teen stories come off as annoying and whiny to me (like Catcher in the Rye or some John Green novels – don’t hate me!) However, when we meet Gerald Faust, it becomes apparent that he has every right to be as angry as he is.
When Gerald was a child, he and his family appeared on a reality TV show called Network Nanny. The reason for this was because Gerald had a few issues, such as pooping in inappropriate places like the dining room table. Fast forward to when Gerald is seventeen and he now holds a lot of anger and irresolution about the problems he faced with his family as a child. Throw in cute co-worker, Hannah, and you have two dysfunctional teens connecting, trying to come to terms with their past, and wishing to escape their unsatisfying lives. It doesn’t sound like something I would usually enjoy, but like I said, A.S. King’s writing and characters drawn you in. They are so easy to sympathize with that it’s impossible not to have lots of feelings while reading her stories!
**WARNING: The rest of the review may get into some spoilery territory. I’m going to talk specifically about some of the issues Gerald’s family had when he was a child, as well as some aspects of his romantic relationship as a teen. If you consider this a spoiler and want to read the book, you can feel free to read this next section after you’re finished!**
I think my favourite parts of this book were the flashbacks to when Gerald was young and his family were on Network Nanny. Getting to learn more about his dysfunctional family and watch their dynamic was really interesting and also super frustrating. Let’s talk about Gerald’s oldest sister, Tasha, and their mother. These two fascinated and infuriated me to no end. I actually hated them with a passion most of the time, even though they are complicated characters in their own right. Basically, Tasha was an extremely awful person and her mother made excuses for her, never disciplined her, neglected and mistreated her other two children, and let her marriage fall apart, all because she wanted to protect her horrible daughter. And when I say horrible I mean horrible. Let’s take a look at a list of some of the things that Tasha has done, shall we?
- She hits people (including her mother.)
- She pushed Gerald down the stairs.
- She continually tries to suffocate her siblings with pillows and used to hold their heads underwater in the bathtub.
- She had sex at twelve years old.
- She pooped on things and blamed it on Gerald.
- She continually calls Gerald retarded and gay.
All of this and it goes completely ignored by her mother. There was one scene that put me over the edge, and that was her mother doing her homework for her because she forgot. I mean come on. This part, along with many others, had me shaking my head in astonishment.
As the story goes on, it becomes clearer that there are some deeper issues within Tasha’s psyche (see attempted drowning), but the way her mother handled it led to the breakdown of their family, and the anger and sense of injustice that Gerald feels towards his life. I couldn’t believe that the mother wished for her other children’s’ failure, just so Tasha could be happy. She doesn’t want her other daughter to go to university, and she even goes so far as to put Gerald in Special Ed classes, even though he has no disabilities! The Nanny from the TV show realizes the true issues of the family, however for the sake of TV, none of these issues are solved. Reading all of this was very frustrating because you can feel the sense of hopelessness every time something happens and Gerald is blamed for it, or whenever Tasha does not receive any discipline. This is one of the reasons that it is so easy to sympathize with Gerald throughout the story.
Now let’s jump to present day and discuss some aspects of teenage Gerald’s life. I quite enjoyed the romance present in the novel, moreso than I usually enjoy this kind of contemporary romance between two messed-up teens. Both Gerald and Hannah have their own legitimate issues, and I truly felt that they were good for each other. Their relationship showed the right amount of giddiness, along with tension and fighting. It was much more realistic than a lot of YA romances. Also, the sex! Gerald and Hannah have sex, and although it’s not explicitly described, it is not swept under the rug. After they do it for the first time, they do it a lot and it’s mentioned a few times. I love that A.S. King does not ignore teenage sex, because it happens and I really think that teens should be able to read and learn about this kind of thing in the novels that are geared towards them. I believe that teens should be able to find characters that they relate to on all levels, and see events that happen in real life reflected in their literature. The depiction of teen sex in this book was definitely more realistic than something like Twilight, City of Heavenly Fire, or A Court of Thorns and Roses. This was real teens fumbling around and growing together and it was wonderful.
Anyway, I rambled about that book for much longer than I was expecting to! Although I did enjoy Reality Boy, I only gave it three and a half teacups because I didn’t really love it. I love the writing style and the reactions that the characters got out of me, however the story didn’t blow me away or completely suck me in. I may consider giving it four teacups, but for now, the rating is as it stands. I would certainly recommend A.S. King’s novels, my favourite so far being Everybody Sees The Ants. If you haven’t read A.S. King before, you should start with that one! I really want to pick up more A.S. King in the future because there is something about her books that just makes you want to keep reading more and more of them. I can’t wait to pick up Ask The Passengers and I Crawl Through It!
If you want to learn more about A.S. King and her works click here –> http://www.as-king.com/