Day: October 28, 2013

Review: Reality Boy by A. S. King

reality boy

Reality Boy by A. S. King

Gerald became a reality TV star at age five when his mother brought in a television nanny to help him with his anger issues.  He had been putting holes in the walls.  He then started crapping around the house, often caught on camera.  Now Gerald is seventeen and still struggling with anger in his life.  His abusive older sister is back home, living in the basement.  His closer sister has gone to college in Scotland and never calls.  His mother and father are both entirely ineffective to stop anything.  Gerald spends much of his time in Gerland, a world filled with ice cream and candy, where no one is angry or mean.  But he can’t live there forever, and he has to return to the real world where he has no friends and people call him The Crapper.  It’s all too much sometimes for Gerald to handle, but he has to figure out a way to handle things that doesn’t have him escaping to a fantasy world or beating someone bloody.

I found this book to be entirely gripping.  The premise of a boy who is damaged by a reality show that is meant to help (at least on the surface) is very clever.  As the layers of the story are pulled back, one discovers who the true problem is.  King does this in surprising ways though flashbacks that continue to shock even though one thinks all is revealed.  This is a book that will do much to show teens that abuse by siblings and children happens to others.

King has created a wounded hero in Gerald.  He is stunted by his family, unable to grow up and unable to control his outbursts.  The reader aches for him, roots for him and yes is also frightened by his lack of control.  He is a teen caught by his past and unable to see a future.  One weakness of the book is the depiction of Gerald’s family.  They are not fully developed and the book loses something because of that, given that they are so much of the story of Gerald’s dysfunction. 

Gerald is a magnificent character, and the book is compelling and harrowing.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from digital copy received from NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Review: Whale Shines by Fiona Robinson

whale shines

Whale Shines: An Artistic Tale by Fiona Robinson

Published November 5, 2013.

Whale is a living billboard, swimming slowly through the ocean with a poster to advertise the upcoming art show.  Along the way, he passes all sorts of sea creatures creating art.  The hammerhead shark is working on sculptures from sea debris.  Eel is forming lines in the sand.  Octopus, cuttlefish and giant squid were scaring each other to collect their ink.  Whale mutters to himself that he wishes he could make something too.  That’s when the plankton around him tell him to try.  But whale just can’t think of anything that he’d be able to do.  After all, he doesn’t squirt ink, and he can’t slither in the sand.  It’s going to take a lot of creativity and some risk for whale to even try creating art.

Robinson has created a simply gorgeous book here.  Her writing is lovely, slow-paced and languid just like Whale floating by displaying his advertisement.  Whale is a solitary figure in the story, lone and distant from the others.  As he drifts past, he is separate from everyone else.  Robinson successfully manages his transformation from wallflower to fully-engaged artist in a way that rings honest and doesn’t seem rushed.

Her art is lovely, filled with the deep colors of the ocean.  It is green and blue hues that shine.  Popping against those are the bright colors of the creatures and the coral in reds and yellows.  The result is a picture book with stunning visuals that truly evoke life underwater. 

A luminous picture book with glowing underwater scenes, this book will speak to all artists, even those reluctant to reveal themselves.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.