Gerald Faust hates his life. But, really, when it comes right down to it, he was never given much of a chance. When he was 5, his mother enlisted the aid of a TV show that brings an appropriately-British nanny into a house to address the behavioral issues of the children living there. The producers and cameras move in soon after. Audiences love the show; the Faust family is decided messed up. But the cameras only show one side of the story. The side of the story that ends with Gerald becoming known as “the Crapper”, which winds up being Gerald’s identity throughout the rest of his childhood and adolescence. If things had been edited differently; if Gerald’s parents (particularly his mother) had acted differently; if the nanny had been an *actual* nanny and not just an actress playing a nanny; audiences would have seen the circumstances that led to Gerald’s infamous habit of defecating on various household surfaces. The audiences might have seen his eldest sister threatening to kill Gerald and his other sister. Audiences might have seen his mother constantly siding with his psychopath of an older sister. In case the point needs to be made clear: the behavior problems were never Gerald’s, but they made for better TV.
We’ve all seen these shows, right? Well, what happens when the subject of one of these shows grows up? What kind of life do they lead when every single person in their hometown associates these kids with the nightmares they were portrayed as on TV? In Gerald’s case, it causes him to have extreme anger and anxiety issues. It’s also landed him in the special education program at school. It’s caused him to be a loner, because no one wants to be friends with “the Crapper”. It’s caused Gerald to create an Disney-like imaginary world called “Gersday” to escape to. In other words, life has not been easy. When Gerald is finally forced to talk to his co-worker crush, he’s forced to find a way to relate to the outside world and comes to some staggering conclusions along the way.
I love A.S. King’s work and this one is no exception. It’s a concept that I’ve never come across before and it’s a story told with impeccable pacing and loads of compassion. King writes the sort of books that wind up surprising you no matter how much you think you know what’s going to happen next. This is part coming-of-age, part love story and part family drama. It’s told in chapters that alternate between Gerald’s present and various “takes” from scenes in the reality show that Gerald had no choice but participate in. Bit by bit, they tell a heartbreaking and darkly humorous story that feels as unique is it does familiar. Highly recommended.
I received this book after stalking the publisher at the ALA Annual Conference and am not compensated in any way for my review (other than the sheer joy of reading). This book comes out in September 2013.