When Gerald was five his family was part of a reality TV show where a “nanny” was brought in to help control the kids and restore order to their lives. He was nicknamed “the crapper,” because he acted out by pooping often in inappropriate places. But reality TV only shows what the producers want to show, and it was a far cry from Gerald’s real life.
Now nearly 17 years old, the crapper nickname has stuck, Gerald has no friends, and he is dealing with managing his anger by seeing a counselor. But the family issues from his early life have only gotten worse. Gerald is just barely getting by, counting the days until he graduates high school and leaves home, when he meets a girl who changes the way he sees everything. Suddenly, just getting by is no longer enough.
Reality Boy by A.S. King explores the reality of “reality TV” while also shining a light on how mental health issues affect everyone in a family. Gerald’s older sister has problems no one acknowledges and his mother in particular sweeps problems under the rug. Everyone in the family suffers from it. He believes he is the only one who has a difficult life until he meets Hannah, who is responding to mental health problems with her parents. The two of them cast each other a lifeline, which helps them slowly work their way into creating a solution that gives them hope for the future.
Reality Boy takes us inside Gerald’s life to show that outward appearances often hide a lot of what’s going on underneath, even if—as is the case with most of us—the cameras aren’t rolling for the world to see. It also shows the fallacy of making judgments about someone based on details you see on the surface.
The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.