Book Review: Boy Toy

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
Reviews by Kara, Alexa, Caitlin C., and Gretchen

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KARA SAYS: Boy Toy is the story of Josh Mendel, a teenage boy who had been sexually abused by a female teacher when he was twelve. He is insecure and feels that everyone around him knows and judges him about it. To add to the pressure is the fact that his abuser has been released from jail. The book starts with Josh as a senior in high school, hoping to get into top colleges and being a star baseball player. A reunion with Rachel, a girl he had “almost raped” when they were thirteen and hadn’t spoken to since brings up all new emotions for him. Josh tells Rachel about the details of his abuse and his abuser: his history teacher, Eve. Josh goes into extreme detail about his experience and the aftermath. The rest of the book is dedicated to Josh trying to deal with all the new problems that face him: having Rachel back in his life, prom, choosing colleges, important baseball games, the possibility of seeing Eve again, trying to survive the end of senior year, and attempting to live a relatively normal life.

I thought that Boy Toy was very well written. It was the first book I had ever read dealing with the subject of child sexual abuse. I was surprised by the extreme detail used in the description of the abuse, but it did make it seem realistic. Some changes should be made, such as when Josh told his whole story in one sitting. I think there should have been some breaks in the narration to build suspense and make it more realistic. I also think that Josh’s relationship with Rachel moved a bit too fast. I feel that Rachel should have taken her time reuniting with Josh considering the circumstances and the way Josh acted. I would recommend this book for mature readers only because of the subject manner and details describing it. Overall, it was a very interesting read and shows Barry Lyga’s versatility as a writer.

ALEXA SAYS: Boy Toy, Barry Lyga's newest book, is an incredibly well-written story about a graduating high school boy finally dealing with a very large issue that is presently becoming more and more popular in the United States. In 7th grade, Mrs. Sherman, Josh's history tracher, lured Josh to her apartment every day for months, disguising the visits with a fake grad class project, and ending them by molesting him. As the end of the novel unfolds, it is revealed that she even made Josh think he seduced her, but through flashbacks--and flickers--Josh learns the truth. With such a tragic past, Josh struggles with relationships--except for his best friend Zik, who is always there and never pushes for information about what happened. Rachel, who Josh almost raped because he knew no better, has been out of Josh's life and wants back in ... but is Josh ready?

I recommend Boy Toy to anyone who enjoys stories about love and difficult truths. Boy Toy has become one of my all-time favorite books. I like the set-up of the book, which is about 100 pages of the story in present-day, then 100 pages of flashback, 100 more pages of present-day, 100 pages of other flashback, and it finishes out with an ending in the present. The story incoropates a lot of issues that I am dealing with, like college choices, friends, and sports, so I can relate well to it.

CAITLIN C. SAYS: This book forces you to think about a dozen different issues. Not only do you read the thoughts of Josh the high-school senior, you also see what went through his twelve-year-old head when he was with Eve, along with all the other characters putting in their two bits about the experience. When you finally think you have an opinion about the scandal, you’re forced to rethink it because Josh changes his mind many times over throughout the course of the story. It’s not just the sex scandal that has you confused either. During and after, the reader will be asking him or herself, “What is love? What is maturity? How do you define being mature? Who was Cal Ripken anyway?” You’re taken for a ride as everything you thought you believed is chewed up and spit back onto a bubble gum wrapper, and you don’t mind one bit.

Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this book. People can be absorbed by a good book so that they can’t stop talking about it, but few have ever been haunted by a book. Boy Toy was my literary poltergeist for the past few days, and it refused to leave me alone until I sat down for a few hours and finally finished it. There didn’t seem to be any spelling errors and the language was fluid and clear, but it all could’ve been in pig Latin for all I would have noticed. I’m not sure when or even if I’ll be haunted by another book, but if it ever occurs again, I’ll instantly think of Boy Toy. After all, they say you never forget your first time.

GRETCHEN SAYS: Boy Toy is definitely a departure from Fanboy and Goth Girl, but high schoolers will appreciate Josh's authenticity as a character. He is realistically struggling with social and psychological issues, even as he gets on with his own life of sports, and school. Although Boy Toy tackles the very current subject of sexual abuse, it should not be relegated to the pile of teen problem novels. I think showing Josh as a senior in high school looking back on the events of his seventh grade year makes the story more realistic and less voyeuristic. The detail in the flashbacks is somewhat graphic, but I don't think it was gratuitous. Boy Toy is a very honest telling of how victims are affected by abuse over time. Josh is a believable character, and readers will forgive the length of his flashbacks to find out more about his current life, including his fledgling relationship with Rachel, his performance on the baseball diamond, and his feelings about the release of his abuser from jail.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Am about to write a review of BOy Toy for our library website, and came across your reviews. Very well written reviews, and interesting to see what teens made of the book.

Michelle, Tauranga City Libraries, New Zealand