Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Boy Toy

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
galley from ALA
due September 2007 from Houghton Mifflin

I loved this book, though the love grew gradually. I'm having a really difficult time trying to figure out how to write about it and not give too much away.

When I talked to Lyga at ALA he wanted to make sure I knew this wasn't a sequel to The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. Yeah, I knew that, but I still appreciate the heads up. In Boy Toy, set in the same town and high school as Fanboy, only a year later, narration flips between 18 year old Josh and 12 year old Josh. Josh also "flickers" - mini seizure type activity - to the past. (These are more than just memories, as Josh has no awareness of what's actually happening around him.) Also interspersed through the narrative are interviews with Dr. Kennedy, Josh's psychologist. These multiple layers are deftly handled as the story slowly unfolds.

The tag line on the back of the book is "Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is." When he was 12 Josh had a sexual relationship with his English teacher, Evelyn Sherman. But, as Lyga says in his introduction, this "is not actually a book about child abuse".

Because for the past six years Josh has been ashamed that everyone knew his secret, convinced they were all talking about him, he only has one friend. Over the course of the book Josh begins to let others into his life again, Mrs. Sherman is released from jail and Josh finally gains an understanding of what actually happened. Plus, he plays some baseball, which helps in the both the understanding and friend arenas.

Like Fanboy, Boy Toy has an authentic voice, which grips the reader and won't let go. An emotionally intense book, Boy Toy will likely make many readers uncomfortable, but it is all the more satisfying for it.

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