Monday, February 2, 2015

Reality Boy

While packing for vacation in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, I threw a book in my bag in case I got bored on the plane or the beach. To be honest, I did not plan on ever taking the book out of my carry on. I usually sleep on planes and I like to participate in as many vacation activities as I possibly can. However, the plane ride was a lot longer than I had anticipated. After trying to entertain myself with SkyMall and Sudoku for an hour, I reached down for my book. For the rest of the plane ride, I read the beginning of Reality Boy by A.S. King. I was drawn to the story immediately, and the book became a very important vacation activity for myself and my brothers! If only I could read all young adult literature on a warm sunny beach...  

Reality Boy is the story of Gerald Faust, a teen whose early childhood years were played out on a reality television show. Years later, he is still struggling with the anger he felt from the consequences that came from being on the show and the lack of love and support from his dysfunctional family. On the verge of snapping, Gerald is trying to break free from his anger and create the life he deserves.

What first drew me into this book was the show "Network Nanny" because family friends of ours had been on a similar type show before. They had three five year old triplets who starred on the show at the age of five. The same age as Gerald was. I remember gathering around the TV with my family, watching the nanny come in and try to fix these unruly boys. And even more vividly, I remember visiting the family after the nanny had left. I noticed the posters and charts all around the house, untouched since the cameras had left. The boys still unruly as ever. The nanny show didn't fix them. But I had never considered what impact being on the show had on their family or how it has impacted them today. After reading Reality Boy, I feel guilty for getting so much enjoyment and pleasure I got from watching the show. It is sickening to think about how many people also got so much pleasure from watching other peoples pain. It also concerns me how there are so many reality TV shows with children as their stars today. I wonder about the consequences of this form of entertainment and I worry about the kids who have no control or say as to what their parents put on TV for everyone to see. For kids, adults are supposed to be people in their lives that they can trust. But after reading Reality Boy, it's clear that they do not always make the best decisions. As someone whose guilty pleasure is binge watching reality tv shows, Gerald's story really makes me question the type of media that I mindlessly consume. Although I cannot promise to give up all reality tv, I think that this book has helped me to make better choices about the shows that I watch.

Another aspect of reality boy that I could really connect to was the rage that Gerald feels. Even though I have a very supportive and loving family, I still find myself getting very angry sometimes. I have never harmed myself or others, but the words that I say in these moments of rage can be hurtful and something that I regret. After reading this book, I quickly passed the book along to my two younger brothers. Once we had all read the book, we talked about how we all could relate to Gerald's anger.  I am grateful for the dialogue this book inspired between my brothers and I because it helped us to discuss an issue that has affected us all and is difficult for us to talk about. It also helped us to understand one another better and even my parents are now going to read the story to get a better idea of what us kids were talking about.

I look forward to reading more of A.S. King's book. Hopefully I can enjoy them in a beautiful and tropical place again.


  1. You have me intrigued, Christina. Are there key passages you could identify that would reflect the type of anger you discussed with your brothers? At the same time, would these be the same passages you would use to help readers meet Common Core Anchor Standards 2 and 3 (Calkins, et. al, p. 54)?

  2. I think one thing all three of us noticed while reading was how angry the book made us! Reading about Gerald's dysfunctional family made us constantly feel like we wanted to knock some sense into all of them; especially his parents. They absolutely infuriated us. I think A.S. King's ability to make her reader's feel that same anger and frustration as Gerald is powerful because it helps you to better understand why Gerald is so angry and messed up.

    On page five, Gerald repeats to himself, "Only you can allow yourself to be angry." Although I can't target any specific passages, this line really stuck out to me and my brothers. Just like Gerald, we kind of doubted how much control one has over their anger. When you deal with things for so long, or a lot of bad things happen all at once, I think it is difficult to be able to control the anger that you feel.

    I know for one of my brothers, the parts where Gerald is bullied or reflects upon the bullying he endured as a result of the show is something that he really connected to. He suffered through his own issues with bullying and he understood how it has a lasting impact on someone. As my brother explained to us, it is why he sometimes gets upset and angry when we tease and joke around with him too much. To him, it doesn't feel like a joke. Instead, it reminds him of the attacks that he faced everyday in school. This makes me think of the part in the book when Gerald asks Hannah to not hit him anymore because it reminds him of what he went through with Tasha. I had never thought about how our joking around would remind him of the things he went through during school but it helped me to become more sensitive and understanding to his feelings.