Sunday, January 6, 2013

Book #80: Boy Toy

Book #80: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
5/5 stars

This was quite the controversial YA novel in my YA Lit class this past semester, so I'm interested to see what other readers will think about it! I will warn that it is not for everyone as it deals with a mature subject matter: a relationship between a teacher and student. As you might have been able to tell from my reviews on Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls and Patricia McCormick's Sold, to name a few, I love reading YA novels that deal with tough subject matters, and this novel fits right into that category.

Josh is now eighteen, and still haunted by memories of Eve, his seventh grade history teacher with whom he once had a sexual relationship. Since then, she has been found out and put in jail, and Josh has been seeing a therapist. However, he is not "back to normal" by this point. He often experiences what he calls "flickers", which are memories of his time spent with Eve that make him appear zoned out to those around him, and he hasn't really dated since his time with his teacher, because he feels uncomfortable about being with girls in that way, not because they're actually his age, but because he hasn't ever learned how to properly date a woman. As he is approaching gradation and trying to deal with his past, he finds out that Eve has been released on parole for good behavior. This opens the gates to all of his suppressed and unsuppressed memories of when he was twelve years old and was manipulated by his teacher.

The novel flashes back to the time when Eve, then twenty-six, and Josh first met as teacher and student, and follows the progression of their relationship, up until her arrest and trial. I will warn that this does get graphic at times, and is hard to stomach at points, but you have to get through it to finish the story, and I couldn't put it down because I wanted to find out what happened to Josh. You can be comforted by that fact that you know that it stops eventually, that Eve is caught and punished. Eventually, the novel gets back to the present, and though I won't give anything away, I will say that it continues to follow Josh at eighteen through the end of his senior year, focusing on where he's at now, and where he's going.

This novel definitely didn't shy away from the controversial, and I admire that the author took risks. Not many will write about such a topic, and Josh's voice at twelve and eighteen was believable and the difference in Josh over time was clear. The author was able to explore a dark subject without making me too uncomfortable to go on, yet not shying away from risks. The novel sparked some great conversations in my class, and everyone who read it was made uncomfortable by it at some point, yet did not regret reading it, because it's a really great novel. When it ended, I felt satisfied with the ending and where the characters were at. It felt real, and that's a sign of a great book.

What I'm reading now...

1. White Swan, Black Swan: Stories by Adrienne Sharp (short stories)

2. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (YA fiction)

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