Sunday, October 20, 2013

3 Children in Reality Shows and the Birth of a Book Idea by A.S. King

We all know (or most of us anyway) that the idea for THE HUNGER GAMES was sparked by reality television, right? Well, today's guest post by A.S. King asks a few more specific questions you may or may not have asked yourself about the ethics and effects of reality shows where children are concerned. Her latest book, REALITY BOY, is based on those questions, and you can bet the book is great. She has numerous awards under her belt for previous books, everything from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly & School Library Journal, and Los Angeles Times Best Book picks to Printz, Cybils, Edgar, and Junior Library Guild honors, and ALA and YALSA Best Book for Teens awards. In short, it's an honor to have her share her thoughts with us.

Children in Reality Shows and the Birth of a Book Idea 

by A.S. King

REALITY BOY came to me in the shower after many months of thinking about kids on reality TV. I was living in Berks County, PA at the time and though I hadn’t watched TV in about 15 years, I had heard of our local reality TV stars, the Gosselins and their eight children. I’m not quick to judge people and I’ve never watched their show, so my thoughts from the beginning about REALITY BOY came from my Vulcan curiosity more than anything. Some of those thoughts were:

  • Why do parents sign their young children up to be on reality TV?
  • Why are adults entertained by so-called “real” children who misbehave or act foolishly on TV?
  • Why do we think it’s okay to poke fun at these children in our Facebook, Twitter or other social media streams?
  • Given the chance, how many parents would subject their children to this type of national scrutiny?
  • And why? Is it money? Fame? Something else?

The important thoughts I had in the shower on the morning I started writing REALITY BOY, though, were these:

  • If one in four children are suffering abuse of some sort in this country, then is it fair to assume that reality TV reflects this same ratio?
  • Does that mean that we, adults, are being entertained by children who are being abused behind the scenes?
  • What does this say about us?
  • And more importantly, how does a child grow up in that atmosphere and not be incredibly angry?

I know a little bit about reality-style TV because my husband once worked on two seasons of a small cable show where I learned that what we see—even if it’s as simple as two guys refinishing furniture—isn’t necessarily what goes on. (My husband would do the actual refinishing, not the two guys you saw pretending that they did the refinishing. See?) I don’t trust TV. I especially don’t trust reality TV, because it’s not supposed to be real. It’s supposed to be entertaining, no matter how we derive that entertainment.

So, while I stood there in the shower, I wondered about parents who give permission for their kids to be on TV, when TV can be so misrepresentative. As a parent, I get uncomfortable if someone even posts a picture of my child on Facebook because I don’t want my kids to ever feel as if I have been talking about them behind their backs with other people. Call me sensitive, but I think this stuff matters. I was 13 when I once overheard a family member talking about me at a Christmas party and it felt like the worst type of double-cross! It was so embarrassing—like much of childhood is.

What I wrote after my great-idea-shower remains the prologue to REALITY BOY. Gerald Faust shot out of my fingers and he was angry as hell. He was hurt. He was embarrassed. He was misunderstood. He was betrayed. And he was misrepresented—because I knew the truth of his family, and all those TV watchers who saw him on Network Nanny didn’t know, and never would.


A.S. King is best known for her award-winning young adult novels, though she writes novel-length and short fiction for adults as well. After more than a decade in Ireland dividing herself between self-sufficiency, restoring her farm, teaching adult literacy, and writing novels, she returned to the US in 2004. She has

Visit her full website here.
Follow her on Twitter.
Become a Facebook Fan.
See her Hachette Speakers Bureau page here.


Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Hardcover Release 10/22/13

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


  1. Looks like a timely and interesting post. Thanks for the story behind the story.

  2. Sounds like a fascinating novel! Great points...yeah, I don't watch those reality TV shows. Ugh. Like you said--how much of that "reality" is really real?

  3. This is a book that is on my must read list. It's fascinating to hear how A. S. came to write it. Thanks for posting this.


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