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Reality Boy

Book cover

Reality Boy

A.S. King
Monday, Nov 2, 2015

The older I get, the more I think maybe I belong in jail.

Gerald has anger control issues. He's had them for as long as he can remember. Anger has always been his defining emotion. His retreat, his solace, his catalyst for action. His self-image.

No matter how much anger management coaching I've had, I know that if I had a gun, I'd shoot Nichols in the back as he walks away with his beer. I know that's murder and I know what that means. It means I'd go to jail. And the older I get, the more I think maybe I belong in jail. There are plenty of angry guys like me in jail. It's like anger central. If we put together all the jails in this country and made a state out of them, we could call that state Furious.

. . .

The longer I stare at myself in the mirror, the more I want to punch myself. Right in the face. I want to break my nose. Split my lip. Bite a hole in my cheek. I want to beat some sense into me. Instead, I punch the toilet stall door. It swings in and slams into the toilet-paper holder. My hand is numb. But not as numb as the rest of me.

Gerald has punched faces before, many times. He has bitten a hole in someone's cheek. Jail is not an unrealistic expectation for Gerald. It all started, in his mind, when he was five. When he wouldn't stop punching holes in walls and throwing violent tantrums that sometimes led to calls for the police, Gerald's mom wrote to a reality TV show, Network Nanny, for help. The Nanny and her television crew showed up. Gerald got madder, and decided to escalate his expressions of anger the only way his five-year-old logic could imagine, by taking craps in inappropriate places--on the kitchen table, in his mom's favorite shoes, on his sister's bed. All of it was caught on camera, and he's been known ever since as "The Crapper."

"Schadenfreude," she says. "It means when people take pleasure in others' pain or humiliation."

"Oh." Jesus. I had no idea there was a word for what I've suffered for my whole life. It's like being asthmatic but no one telling you until your seventeenth birthday the name for why you couldn't ever breathe.

Except Gerald's issues started well before reality TV entered his life when he was five. And they aren't really his issues. No, there are much bigger forces controlling Gerald's crappy life than his anger and his crapping, but it's taken him 12 years to begin to start seeing that. Now, at 17, he's trying to figure out if there might be more to his story than Furious and a future in jail.

Silly me, I put off reading this for quite a while because I didn't think the premise sounded very appealing: I didn't think I'd be able to relate to a character like Gerald and am already convinced that reality TV is not a good thing. But there is so much more to this book than that. Character and situational complexity so real that relating and agreeing aren't even relevant issues. This is top-notch writing and storytelling that will engage anyone. Gerald's story is definitely worth experiencing.

Chris K.

Written by Chris K.

Fun fact: Experts estimate that the average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles an hour.

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