Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Misbehaving is just a part of being a kid. But in Gerald’s case, it’s hard to escape his troubled early childhood years. Gerald and his family were on a reality TV show called Network Nanny, where the nanny tried to correct Gerald’s bad behavior on television. Even if he wants to leave the past behind, it seems like the rest of the world wants him to keep living it forever. Gerald is a teenager now, but what the viewers of the show didn’t see is that Gerald and his entire family live in constant fear of Gerald’s older sister, and she didn’t improve after the show. But Gerald is ready to live a life beyond anger and resentment. There’s a beautiful girl at work that he’s interested in, and even though his anger management coach has cautioned him against dating, he doesn’t know if he can resist her. And the more Gerald gets to know her, the more he learns that everyone carries baggage from the past, even if it wasn’t featured on TV.
Reality Boy covers a lot of themes that are relevant but not frequently discussed. For example, Gerald is abused at the hands of his older sister. Though sibling abuse is common, it is often normalized in media and viewed as inevitable. This book, however, shows the detrimental effects of such abuse and also follows Gerald’s journey as he opens up about the truth of his childhood and takes actions in order to be emotionally and physically safe. Also, reality TV shows are a big part of American culture, but the real lives of the people in these shows is largely unknown. This book sheds light on the ways that even supposedly candid TV is manufactured for an audience. Network Nanny was edited to portray Gerald in a not entirely truthful way, which exposes that TV networks are highly motivated by money and are not necessarily concerned with presenting reliable information to viewers. Though Gerald’s story is a pretty unique one, it could help a reader to be a more critical recipient of media messages.
*Contains severe language, moderate sexual content, and mild violence.