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.
In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.
First sentence: “I’m the kid you saw on TV.”
Wow, I’m struck by how honest this book is and the raw emotions coming from Gerald Faust. It’s highly heart wrenching and extremely disturbing. He has had a really shitty life, and I want to hug him. The story is: when he was five years old, he was on this reality show called Network Nanny with his family because he pooped around the house in anger and became known as “the Crapper.” Twelve years later, Gerald is dealing with the effects of the show. He suffers from anger issues (a consequence of various harmful incidents – one of which is the reality show and the other will spoil you so I won’t so) and tries to survive in a world that antagonizes him. This book shows us what happens to those kids who were thrust into the limelight of reality shows and become known for their “bad” antics. Do they live happily ever after? Or do they continue to suffer from the trauma of being known as the person who crapped their pants or whatever?
- Gerald Faust.
You can’t help but want all the happiness for Gerald. Yeah, he’s an angry teenager but he has justified reasons for being angry. He is constantly surrounded by people who continue to remind him that he is nothing and he’s in a powerless situation that he isn’t able to escape. When he talked about Gersday, I found myself clutching my heart because oh my god, that is adorable, but sad. He has to form a day and a world that he feels safe from all the anger and all the fear. I admire the strength he has for dealing with a toxic environment and trying not to use his fists and his anger as a way out. I like that he uses what he learned in anger management because this is a teenager who wants to be better. He owns up to his anger.
- How the book deals with anger.
I like that Gerald’s anger isn’t being excused as a kid/teenage thing. It’s a legitimate problem that Gerald is trying to overcome. Gerald owns up to his actions when he’s angry. He apologizes when it’s deserved because he knows he shouldn’t use his fists to speak for him. Gerald is a self-aware teenager. He doesn’t want his anger to run his life or he’ll end up in prison like everyone expects him to be. The way anger is addressed in this book is kind of rare in books I read and I love it.
- The way the family dynamic and the adults are portrayed.
Let me tell you, this is not a happy family. Dysfunctional doesn’t even begin to describe the dynamics of this family. It’s an extremely toxic environment. I get extremely angry at his parents, especially his mother, for not doing anything to protect Gerald, but at the same time, I feel really sad for them. They’re just as helpless as Gerald. They continue to enable the person who triggers Gerald’s anger – Tasha, Gerald’s older sister – out of fear. They have checked out of their children’s life because of Tasha and they aren’t willing to confront the problem because it’s much easier to ignore it and pretend that nothing is wrong or shift the cause of their problems to someone else. Unlike Gerald, they don’t own up to their absence in their children’s life nor do they want to change and I thought that’s an interesting contrast between them and Gerald (who wants to break the toxic cycle).
I am absolutely repulsed by most of the adults in the book (except Beth, Gerald’s supervisor). The nanny and the crew members of the reality show know what is going on, but they don’t alert the authorities. They don’t think of the effect they have on Gerald’s mental state by not acknowledging that yes, there is a real problem and it isn’t Gerald. For the sake of entertainment, they egg the children on to create more drama and they’re adding more problems that the family cannot deal with on their own.
- Cultural appropriation.
I was uncomfortable during the scenes when Gerald imagines himself putting on war paint, feathers and moccasins, and when he continues to mention it and other things associated with Native Americans like “chief” and “tribal drumming.” I understand why he imagined it; he’s just reaffirming to himself that he is strong and in control of his actions. However, I find it extremely problematic because of things this post brings up about people like Gerald – a privileged white kid (at least, that’s my belief he is). As soon as I got to chapter ten when the Native American cultural appropriation occurred, I cringed because that is not right nor is it cool.
- The romance.
I think I’m the only person who did not like the romance in it. It took me out of the story. I cringed because when Gerald and Hannah said I love you or used the phrase “soul mate,” I found myself thinking – let’s not do that. Here are two messed up kid who are still trying to deal with having crappy parents. They have their ups and downs, but when they fight, it reaffirms my belief that they are not ready for a romantic relationship. Somebody can use the argument that Gerald and Hannah being together is a step in the right direction for them, which is a better future, but for me, I couldn’t connect with it. (Maybe I’m cynical about love?)
Reality Boy shows readers what happens when children of reality shows are forced back into reality. For Gerald Faust, it added more problems to his family’s life. I’m usually not a fan of angry/problem characters, but this book has an excellent story and message. I was fine with not getting a final resolution with Gerald’s mother and Tasha because 1. they won’t change and 2. this book isn’t about addressing their problems. It’s about Gerald finally making a step to remove the toxic people in his life, about Gerald finally standing on his two feet without anger or fear, and about Gerald realizing he has the power to change his situation. You realize the healing process is just beginning for him and that is something you can’t wrap in a nice bow as if the story has truly ended. This book absolutely breaks my heart seeing Gerald’s well-being put aside for Tasha (who I have refrained from talking about because she plays a really important part in Gerald’s life and I don’t want to spoil it).
I want you to embrace this disturbingly good book, so we can all hug Gerald and give him a happy safe place.