Reality Boy is the story of Gerald, a teen whose life played out on TV in a reality show much like the ones with which our society has become so obsessed. In the show, a "nanny" visits the family and teaches the parents how to teach their children to behave. Whenever I've seen these shows on TV, I have wondered how the kids fare in their real teenage years. Gerald's story may be indicative of what actually happens to some of them.
In Reality Boy, Gerald's family is completely dysfunctional - from a sister who is constantly having LOUD sex in the basement for all to hear, to a mother who is more concerned about how things look on TV rather than how her real life is affecting her kids. And in the middle is Gerald, now a teenager, who is trying to become someone other than the kid on TV, who is notorious for...uh...well...taking a dump everywhere from the kitchen table to his mom's penny loafers.
Having just been awarded the coveted Los Angeles Times Best Book for Young Adults Award, King's previous novel, Ask The Passengers, portrayed Astrid Jones, a small town girl trying to define her life. Astrid spends time sending love to passengers in planes flying over her hometown. She has secrets...and a messed up mother.
As a former teen librarian who was never afraid of discussing delicate issues with teens, Gerald is a excellent place to start the conversation. He struggles with similar problems that many teens face today, but to the extreme. He carries his unwanted reputation as "The Crapper" with anger and confusion, trying to move beyond this well-deserved nickname. Everyone does something that they wish they hadn't. It may not be crapping on the dining room table, but it's something. And everyone has a mother...and she's sometimes messed up.
YA authors are not widely appreciated. I see it with all of the great ones. They're not taken as seriously as they should be. King's books are complicated, yet approachable; heavy, yet humorous; and teens can read them and think that maybe their situation could be worse. Reality Boy is yet another impressive novel that I know will receive stars galore and a crapload (giggle) of awards.
If you're a librarian, pre-order multiple copies for your collection NOW. Teens will be asking for them and you'll be able to start some interesting conversations. Make it a book discussion selection and they will show up. Book talk it and you'll get their interest. And please...recommend it for adults. They'll love it, too.
King visited our library last year and did a great writing workshop. Our teens LOVED her. So much, in fact, that we're bringing her back this year. I assume that her schedule will get busier and busier as each book is released, so if you want to get her for your library, do it now. She is the best YA author we've ever had the privilege of hosting.
If you want to find out more about King's awesomeness, visit her official hideout.