What I love about A.S. King's Reality Boy is how it takes a good hook – the protagonist is a 17-year-old who when he was little was on a reality TV show about misbehaving children where he shat on a bunch of things – and piles on the dysfunction, and makes you see the situation the way he does, but then as the tension mounts and mounts and mounts there’s this understanding that actually, this is more cussed up than a person should have to deal with. Especially a 17-year-old.
King is so good at writing teens who think they’re cussed up and then realize that actually their situation is even more cussed up than they thought, and really it’s up to them to say something. This idea that adults are full of shit and need you to tell them that things are cussed up even if they won’t believe you is, I think, an important message. Even though it’s not written as a “message” novel. There’s something subversive about this, that it is actually well within your rights not to fit in and to be angry at the way the world is, even if other people have it worse.
The story is also hella romantic, with angry teenage true love and fights and a bit of running away to join the circus. It’s an excellent book, even if it is a pretty quick read. Highly recommended.