Blog Tour: Interview with Reality Boy author A.S. King

Today I'm thrilled to be part of the Reality Boy blog tour. Regular blog readers know that I'm a huge fan of author A. S. King.

Photo by Krista Schumow 

Though A. S. King needs no introduction to most readers of realistic YA fiction, here's a little information from her website:
Amy's YA novel Ask the Passengers (Little, Brown October 2012) was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner, a Junior Library Guild selection, a Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly & School Library Journal Best Book of 2012, an Indie Next List pick and has been called "Another thoughtful, and often breathtaking achievement" by Booklist in one of six starred trade reviews for the book. Everybody Sees the Ants (Little, Brown October 2011) was an Andre Norton Award finalist, a Cybils finalist, and a 2012 YALSA Top Ten book for young adults. Her 2010 YA novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz was a 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, an Edgar Award Nominee, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book for Teens 2010, a Junior Library Guild selection and a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick. Her first YA novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an Indie Next pick and a Cybil award finalist. Amy now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children and is a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, corn on the cob, libraries, and roller skating.

Reality Boy, her fifth YA novel, was published on October 22, 2013 by Little, Brown. You can read a summary of Reality Boy and my review here, plus find information on where to find A.S. King around the internet.

Jen:  First, it is such an honor to be able to interview you!  

A. S. King: The honor is all mine. Thanks for having me!

Jen: I sat down to think of questions and remembered an incredibly poignant speech that you gave at the 2011 Printz awards ceremony. I'll link to it below, because I think it offers a lot of insight into why you write the kinds of stories that you do.  In the speech, you discuss the fact that most adults avoid raising uncomfortable subjects with kids. In your books, adult characters like Aunt Jodi or Claire Jones or Jill Faust do everything but talk. They pop pills, they dress up and go out, they blend healthy smoothies that might heal a broken family. Why do you think it's so hard for adults to broach tough topics with kids and why do you think it's so important to try?

A. S. King: I think adults often discount teenagers. I think they forget--most likely purposely--what it's like to be a teenager. They forget how smart they were because with wisdom comes a sort of block in our brains to when we may have been more naive no matter how much calculus we were retaining at the time. I think some adults just erase their teen years because they are embarrassed or pained by them. A lot of of adults have a need to feel better than, I suppose, too. It's very difficult to have a respectful and open dialogue with anyone you feel you are better than. And then there's just the ignoring. There's a lot of that. How can any adult talk to their kids about things they refuse to see happening? I see far more of this in life than I am comfortable with. I meet too many adults who are living in bubbles. 

Why do we need that open and respectful dialogue? Because children--teens--are the future. Because children--teens--can see right through all of this stuff. They are natural truth detectors. See also: "From the mouth of babes." By watching adults ignore, then they will also ignore. I look at some of the more serious subjects in our society: child abuse, sexual assault and abuse of all genders, domestic violence, neglect, bullying, suicide, pornography (especially now since it's so widely available and the average age of finding it online is ten), gender roles, consent; and I think these are things that parents need to talk to their children about. If teens only have Google and their friends, they may not get the right idea and end up part of the problem. Let's say one in three teens are dealing with these subjects firsthand or secondhand. If one in three teens had the flu, we'd call it an epidemic and parents would no doubt remind their teens to wash their hands a lot, right?

Jen: Very true! In your speech you mention that your mother used the newspaper as a conversation starter. Today's teens have seemingly unfettered access to information. But in Reality Boy, reality TV and social media seem to have made Gerald feel more misunderstood and more isolated. Is he an extreme case, or do you think that technology has warped the way average teenagers construct their identities and interpret their life experiences?

A. S. King: Technology, access to constant tabloid-style gossip, TV and radio media has completely warped the way all of us construct our identities and interpret life experience. I haven't watched TV in 15 years. When I tell people that, they are shocked and reply with, "What about the news?" as if I couldn't find out what's happening in the world without watching an advertising-driven opinionized show about some select current events that a network chose for me to learn about today. I call it newsertainment. 

I hope to continue to grow and change. I don't think we stop, or, if we do, I am sad that we do. But teens are forming their initial opinions of the hard topics I mentioned in the last answer--from rape to gender roles--in this environment where there are a lot of opinionists ready to tell them how to think. I was in a children's detention center last week and a boy asked me, out of the blue, if I'd always wanted to be a boy since I was a kid. I didn't understand his question at first, but then he explained that since I was wearing jeans, boots, and a t-shirt, that this indicated to him that I would like to be a boy more than a girl because girls would naturally be wearing provocative clothing. I have heard far too many teenagers talk about how if a girl has been drinking, then her getting raped is her own fault. When asked, these teens will simply quote their favorite TV or radio talking head. 

This is not good. This is why parents need to be the most important talking head in a teen's life. I'm learning that teen fiction is often most needed by adults because it helps strip them back to the person they used to be--the person not in the bubble. 

Jen: Your books usually incorporate elements of magical realism -- imaginary places or characters that help your teen protagonists cope with tough times. Can you talk a little about how and why you include these elements in your stories?

A. S King: I have been through shock a few times. It's never the same each time. It's always very ethereal and intense. My characters are dealing with pain. They get through it by escaping the way most people do in times of shock. Some float. Some have daydreams. Some have ants. Some have airplane passengers. These elements show up in my work (completely organically as I write by the seat of my pants) because they are a representation of shock. 

Thank you so much for having me to the blog!

Jen: Thanks so much for being here! Here is the link to the Printz Awards speech I mentioned above. It's such a powerful speech. I cried the first time I read it and even I teared up this time around.

Thanks to the generosity of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, I am giving away a copy of Reality Boy. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I've always wondered if my parents forgot what it was like to be a teen as sometimes it's like they don'r understand me AT ALL.

    Fab interview, Jen! <33

    1. Aw, I remember being a teenager- partly through reading great YA.

      My kids still try to convince me that life is much harder for them today. The internet has largely been a positive force in my life -- just the ability to connect with people through blogging, for example -- but I can also see that in other ways it makes my life more stressful...

  2. Awesome interview! I think the internet and social media is definitely changing. Just this morning, I was watching the news and under every anchor's name they had their twitter handle. Really? It just crazy with the amount of social media going on. Not to mention how scary it can be.

    1. Hashtags and @'s have totally taken over the bottom of the TV screen!! (I will admit to checking Twitter when watching huge events, like the Oscars.) Overall, though, I'd rather watch a show with my kids and discuss it with them, just like A. S. King describes in her speech. I loved that part!

  3. I definitely think social media is changing things. It's even easier for kids (and adults) to bully. I cringe every time I get to the comments section of a news article. I'm not sure why I even bother, but the hate and ugliness displayed by anonymous posters blows my mind. While I personally love social media, and have been a part of niche web forums since the late 90s, the openness of that interaction is not always positive. The worst in humanity is shown as well as the best.

    As far as people being addicted to social media and it changing their social interaction, i see this with adults quite a bit. At least at school, there is enforcement of no cell phones etc. At work I see people in meetings constantly pecking at their phone. In one meeting, the person who led it, a manager, texted while he responded to people's questions. Your texts are not more important than the person sitting in front of you, even if it's work related.

    1. "The worst in humanity is shown as well as the best."

      That is such a good point!

  4. Social media has individualized our children to a dangerous degree. Instead of a village raising a child, it's now reality shows and Facebook--faceless entities--that teach our children. They hide in their rooms, read and text negative information and advice online, and don't have any idea how to socialize as human beings.

    1. It's true -- I was a teen before social media, and the kids I see today are much more concerned with how they appear on Instagram or Facebook than how they are perceived in real life. And you're right -- it is isolating to be on a screen all the time.
      I think the internet has a lot of positives, but I hope the pendulum swings back soon and we focus more on what's right in front of us, like Steph said above.

  5. I think so. We are inundated with pictures of perfect men and women. It's bad enough with television and magazines but now the internet is added on top of it.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. Social Media has definitely changed things! We discussed this recently with YA author Sean Beaudoin because when writing his characters he has to take into account how differently things are for them then they were for us. I'm terrified for my children to grow into teens. I can't even think about it...

    I love A.S. King and am SO excited to read this!

  7. Thanks for this great interview. Very interesting to read and the book sounds great.


  8. I think social media and the internet in general has definitely changed the way we see ourselves, and definitely the way we communicate. It scares me to think how much more it will have changed by the time my 5 year old daughter is a teenager!!

  9. I have struggled with social media when it seems to portray everyone else's life as so much better and more perfect than mine. I have to remind myself that we share the good things and hide the bad-no one's life is as perfect as they pretend. It also makes me want-like on Pinterest, when I want all the clothes I pin and then have to realize I can't afford that. Not that social media is so awful-I'm thankful for my connection to friends across the country (and world) from me who otherwise we wouldn't be much in contact.

  10. I think social media is making us think more about how to portray ourselves to be what we want people to think we are. Everything you do or put on FaceBook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. makes up an "online persona" that may or may not represent the real you. Like Bookworm1858 said, you choose what everyone sees and what you can hide. There's a lot of manipulation behind it.


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