Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.
Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.
In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved. – Goodreads description
This book wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought it was going to be about a boy who was actually part of a reality TV show for a long period of time, who became famous, who developed that child star syndrome or whatever, and had trouble being a “real” person. You know, the drama of being famous.
This was not that book. It’s actually the story of a boy whose family is featured a few times on that show where a nanny comes into a family that’s all dysfunctional and tries to fix it – on TV. The whole thing took place while he was 5 and 6 years old – and was over when he’d barely started elementary school.
By the time we meet Gerald Faust, he’s 16, the show is long past, but its effects on his life are not. For one thing, everyone in his town remembers seeing him on TV when he was a kid – and remembers some of his unfortunate antics. His family life got worse after the show, not better. His oldest sister is a cruel bully who picks on everyone else in the family (especially Gerald), his mother is deep in denial and avoids facing her family’s issues, his father spends as little time at home as possible and the only person he likes – his other sister, Lisi – has realized her dream of fleeing far, far away. Gerald has spend his entire life living in a pressure cooker of tension just waiting to explode.
And it did – into violent outbursts that land Gerald in anger management classes and the special ed program at school. He’s learned to control his anger by imagining himself in another reality and working out his frustration at a local gym. And by trying to avoid his older sister, whose antagonism triggers angry outbursts. He works at the local stadium manning the concession stand and wishes he could talk to Register #1 girl – and that he could get out of his house.
When the circus comes through town he makes friends with the circus master’s son and begins to dream of literally running away with the circus. When he begins a friendship with Register #1 girl, he discovers that she, too, dreams of escaping an unhappy family situation. The two become partners, helping one another face up to those who would keep them stuck and powerless.
I loved this book. It was full of the frustration and powerlessness that comes from being a kid in a bad home situation with no other options – something I can relate to. I loved his determination to seek out a better future for himself, despite everything that was stacked up against him. I also liked the relationship in this book. It was a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be in a first relationship – particularly when you’ve got a lot of issues. Trust isn’t easy, it doesn’t come naturally, and one of the most important lessons to be learned is forgiveness. I was rooting for these two – and for Gerald to find a way of escaping from his current situation and finally being allowed to live up to his potential.
I’ve never read anything by A. S. King before, though Ask the Passengers has been on my list for ages. But this book has made me a fan. I loved the characters she created and the complexity she wove into both their personalities and lives. She’s got a knack for presenting flawed characters in a way that makes you feel for them and care about them. A definite win.
Author: A. S. King
Published By: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Released: October 22, 2013
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Family
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