Reality Boy/A.S. King: Reflections

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I didn't read A.S. King's Reality Boy on the day it arrived because I needed hunkering-down space. First, I've read all of King's books. Second, I'd heard King read the book's opening pages a few months before. I'd heard intense. I'd heard furiously fearless intense, King-quality fearless and King-quality intense, and there was no way I was going to read this book with interruption as a vague possibility.

I carried the book with me to New Orleans, but either the airplane was shaking or I was out walking NOLA or the TV was on in the recovering-from-the-heat-of-New-Orleans hotel room. Interruptions. No good. Have to read a King book straight through.

Just this morning I found my quiet hunkering-down hole and read straight through. And King, I gotta ask you something. I gotta know: How do you do this? How do you take a character straight out of reality TV—an angry kid, a messed-up kid, a kid with a messed-up family—and give him to us without any kind of buffers, without any kind of bowing to YA novelistic norms? How do you take a boy known as The Crapper for his childhood antics on Network Nanny and make him and his quest for normal, his quest to be released from the "viewers" who think they know who he, so incredibly real? How do you make his story so moving? His bedlam so believable? His awful world so finally transcended? How do you take so much anger and so much destruction and so much hopelessness and turn it on its head, King, without ever going to a soft place?

You are writing a story, and you are writing our TV-infected times. You are writing about not judging a person by the way the world has got him packaged. You are talking about mothers who are little bit cruel and sisters who definitely are, about dads who are trying to get out, about friends who are real, about arguments you can win, about a couple of adults who can see straight through to true, and about a girl in a wheelchair in the special ed class who has wisdom to share.

It's visceral, it's violent, it's fearless. And it says stuff like this:
This should be a reality TV show Except nobody would watch because it's no fun to watch normal people do normal things. Because happy stories aren't all that interesting. Because everyone wants to eat that shxt sandwich, or watch other people eat it, along with exotic bugs and rotten eggs and diesel fuel and everything else producers can think of to try to keep viewers' thumbs from the channel button on the remote control.
Last pages of the story had me crying, King.

And then I got to the acknowledgments and I cried some more. Thank you for that. Thank you for you and your books and our friendship.


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