When Gerald was 5 years old, he was the star of a reality television show that chronicled his family’s domestic affairs. The cameras showed a defiant little boy but never the reasons behind his rage. Now 17, Gerald spends his school days in a special education class where he doesn’t belong but is afraid to leave. His home life has never fully recovered from the aftereffects of stardom: His oldest sister lives in the basement with her boyfriend, and his middle sister hasn’t been in touch since she left for college. Gerald employs several defense mechanisms, all designed to insulate himself from those who continue to judge him by his childhood misbehavior.

When he first meets Hannah, Gerald won’t let himself get attached because he can’t believe that she might actually care for him. But Hannah has family issues of her own, and the two gradually let down their guards for one another. Together, they find a way toward a present—and a future—that’s more than either of their pasts.

In Reality Boy, author A.S. King once again displays the range of her writing talent. Gerald’s voice is authentic, and his anger is palpable. In the end, his story is as much about the lack of reality in “reality” TV as it is about how a teen can choose to define his own identity rather than letting others define it for him.

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