Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Boy Toy

by Barry Lyga
Houghton Mifflin | 2007

Josh is a typical twelve-year-old middle school student. He plays baseball, has friends, and his relationship with his parents is good enough. Then everything changes when he engages in a sexual relationship with his history teacher and the whole town finds out.

Flash forward five years--Josh is the star high school baseball player and is getting ready to graduate and go off to college. That history teacher, Mrs. Sherman (or Eve), has been in prison and is going to be released. Josh's best friend and old crush Rachel (with whom there was an uncomfortable altercation around the time Josh was with Eve) has resurfaced in his life and everything has the potential to crash down around him.

Told in the first person and carefully and thoughtfully constructed in a non-linear fashion, a reader is invited to join Josh as he puts the pieces of himself, his life, and his ongoing understanding of what exactly happened all those years ago back together. It's no easy task and how it plays out will affect everything about Josh for the rest of his life.

Barry Lyga is a genius in how he presents this story. Do you side with Josh and demonize Eve or are you wondering whether the relationship is consensual? What does an adult reader of this text read that might be different than what an adolescent reader might? What about gender delineations? How might a woman or girl read this book differently than a man or boy? This is a book club book or a parent/kid read-together book--it begs for discussion afterwards.

The subject matter is mature, to be sure, and this YA novel received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publisher's Weekly. It's a provocative and interesting read.

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