Most of us have enjoyed a reality show from time to time. My personal summer favorite is So You Think You Can Dance. When we’re watching reality shows, it’s so easy to forget there are real people with real lives that go on after the lights have dimmed and the cameras have been turned off.
All of what we’ve seen on reality shows has been edited to fulfill the producers’ vision of the show. In Michael L. Printz Honor recipient A.S. King’s addictive new book Reality Boy, Gerald Faust and his family have lived with the aftermath of their time on the fake reality show, Network Nanny.
It’s been 10 years since Gerald and his family were on the reality show and he’s never been able to outgrow the nickname “The Crapper” from the behavior that gained him notoriety on the show. The family was on the show after his mother sent a letter pleading for help with six-year-old Gerald’s violent outbursts.
Gerald, now 16, is unable to deal with his anger issues, has no friends and is bullied at school. His parents don’t understand why he and his sister are fighting as much as they did when they were younger. Anyone with siblings knows how bad the fights can be but Gerald and his sister’s fights go beyond normal sibling rivalry.
He feels as if he lives his life wrapped in plastic wrap. To save himself from real life, he's learned to escape into Gersday, a day where there is always ice cream and bright, lovely people. Lately, it’s easier to space out and be in Gersday than to deal with reality.
In the evenings and on weekends, he works at the local coliseum wrapping hot dogs as a concessions cashier. Working several registers away from him, Hannah catches his eye, but he can’t imagine that anyone would consider dating “The Crapper.”
Flashbacks of scenes from Network Nanny are interspersed with Gerald’s present day story. As the episodes unfold, we begin to learn along with Gerald that life inside their house was not all that the parents and the nanny thought it was. It’s a true testament of how some parents wear blinders and only see what they want to see in their children.
With the popularity of reality shows and memoirs, I’m sure in several years we’re reading the memoir of a child who was on one of the popular family reality shows. The memoirs of one of the Gosselin and Duggar children could be appearing on book shelves in the future about what life was really like on the show and their return to “normal” lives after the shows ended.
With Reality Boy, A.S. King has once again proven she is a true master of young adult magical realism with compassion. It’s easy to form a strong connection with her characters. They may be troubled but they don’t want pity nor do they flaunt it, they want what every teenager wants understanding and love. I’ve noticed that I miss the narrator after I've closed the book, and need quiet time afterwards to sit and think before diving into another book because no matter how good it may be it just won't measure up.
About the Author
Erica Voell is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Kansas City Public Library. She enjoys gardening, sewing, knitting, seeking out gluten-free vegetarian cuisine around the city - and yes, being a good librarian, she is owned by a cat.