book review: reality boy

Most of the YA books I read tend towards the science fiction end of things. For me that’s a good intersection point, especially since a lot of great SF was written before YA was really a thing, so it can fall in different categories post-hoc. Anyway. The one writer whose non-SF YA books I love and will now buy sight unseen are A.S. King’s. Her newest is Reality Boy.

What I love about this book is how it takes a good hook – the protagonist is a 17-year-old who when he was little was on a reality TV show about misbehaving children where he shat on a bunch of things – and piles on the dysfunction, and makes you see the situation the way he does, but then as the tension mounts and mounts and mounts there’s this understanding that actually, this is more fucked up than a person should have to deal with. Especially a 17-year-old.

King is so good at writing teens who think they’re fucked up and then realize that actually their situation is even more fucked up than they thought, and really it’s up to them to say something. This idea that adults are full of shit and need you to tell them that things are fucked up even if they won’t believe you is, I think, an important message. Even though it’s not written as a “message” novel. There’s something subversive about this, that it is actually well within your rights not to fit in and to be angry at the way the world is, even if other people have it worse.

The story is also hella romantic, with angry teenage true love and fights and a bit of running away to join the circus. It’s an excellent book, even if it is a pretty quick read. Highly recommended.

book review: the ocean at the end of the lane

The Ocean At The End of The Lane is Neil Gaiman’s latest book for adults, but it reminded me much more of Coraline or The Graveyard Book than American Gods.

Part of that is because of its small scale. There’s an author whose father has died and on his visit home for the funeral he stops by a neighbour’s farm. This prompts recollection of the story of the opal miner who was their lodger when he was seven, which is a story he’d forgotten. The story involves a creature giving people money and seducing his father so that he will never be able to get help.

I liked the story, it was beautiful and Gaimany. I kind of feel bad for saying it but I’d hoped for something more substantial.