When Gerald was 5, his parents allowed a television crew into their home to film a reality show. As a network TV nanny tries to fix their dysfunctional family in front of America, Gerald becomes an unwilling reality star known for his problem-child antics. Twelve years later, Gerald is still plagued by his troubled on-TV persona while dealing with his abusive sister and passive mother, as well as the abandonment he feels after his other sister has left for college in another country.
I’m a big A.S. King fan, but Reality Boy is one of my favorite King novels. Not only is this a great example of a female author writing a boy POV, but the plot is very relevant in our reality TV-obsessed society. While this novel focuses on Gerald’s struggles with anger in the present, a large part of his character development happens when the novel flips to the past when Gerald was 5 and under intense home conditions. Reality Boy expertly weaves chapter-length flashbacks throughout the story to show Gerald’s interactions with his television Nanny and family. During these riveting moments of injustice, this novel shines due to its ability to frustrate the reader and evoke feelings of compassion for young Gerald. To undertake a book that is so flooded and reliant on flashbacks is a daunting task, but Reality Boy is a gripping must-read for any YA writer who uses the past as a major element of their novel.