Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Boy Toy

Boy Toy

Bibliographic Information:

Lyga, B. (2007). Boy Toy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN: 0618723935.


On the way home, Eve drove with one hand; we held hands over the armrest.
"Did you like tonight, Josh? Please tell me." She pouted. "Yes." Deep down, though, I felt bad. Bad that I'd made her do it. Guilty that she'd felt compelled. Guilty for making a mess, of all things.
"Good. Look, this went farther than kissing, you know. I wouldn't just lose my job if this got out. I would go to jail. You don't want me to go to jail, do you?"
-page 185

Plot Summary:

Josh is an 18-year-old high school student about to graduate. He's good looking, smart, popular, a great baseball player, has a bright future, but something happened to him 5 years ago that makes him different from the rest of his classmates. When Josh was 13 he was having what he thought to be an illicit and mutual love affair with his then 26-year-old History teacher, "Eve". Boy Toy is the story of Josh coming to terms with his past, trying to make a future for himself, and having a difficult time moving forward and being a "normal" young adult. Boy Toy tells the story of Josh's molestation through flashbacks, while he deals with issues in his present that collide as he tries to make sense of it all.

Critical Analysis:

Boy Toy takes place in modern time. It is a realistic fiction novel that tells the story of Josh Mendel, a boy that was molested by his History teacher in the 7th grade. The subject matter is heavy, and over half of the novel is Josh sorting out his relationship with his History teacher, Eve, through flashbacks, or "flickers" in graphic detail. Lyga does not shy away from explicit details in this novel which though shocking and confrontational, it is also an honest portrayal of what we know to be the inner workings of a pedophile. For example, the slow progression of Eve offering Josh sodas and video games, then casual touching, then crossing further boundaries that eventually lead to graphic and explicit sexual content. Based on the graphic nature of this book, it is best geared towards older young adults.

Mostly through Josh's neurotic examination of himself, actions, and how they have effected others, the following themes are taken in to consideration; The examination of caring, or loving someone, versus primal passions. As well as the distinction between victim and predator.

There are other marginal characters and minor stories taking place in this novel besides Josh and Eve, but none of them demand the attention or interest like the characters or story previously mentioned. Also, I had a hard time at moments when I would get wrapped up in what was taking place in a flashback, and then have to fast forward to the present which I found distracting.

I also found it disappointing how perfectly things tied up at the end and how Eve is still somewhat glorified when in actuality she is a calculating child molester. Though Eve is a repeat child molester she is still beautiful after her 5 years of prison, she has the support of a doting husband, a job proof reading for a law office, her previous apartment, and has obviously moved back to the same location where she has molested a total of 3 known students in that district. Is that likely?

When Josh was a 12-year-old seventh grader, he was sexually abused by his history teacher, the young, beautiful (and married) Eve, who manipulated him into believing they were in love. Carefully crafting a narrative structure, Lyga flashes between that traumatic time and the present, when Josh, now a senior (at the school where The AstonishingAdventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl took place), learns that Eve is being paroled. The author handles heavy material with honesty and sensitivity, capturing both the young Josh's excitement and his realization that his pleasure brought its own sort of guilt. Years later, he still struggles: he flies into rages (he punches a baseball coach in an opening scene), and he experiences flickers, brief moments which feel like actual immersions in the past. Josh also has trouble pursuing Rachel, who seems like a perfect match, because he cannot trust his physical instincts; he is, as his psychologist puts it, afraid to do anything at all because it might be the wrong thing. Details like Josh's obsession with calculating baseball statistics round out his character; the statistics speak to his intelligence and, more tellingly, to his attempts to control his world. Even his inevitable face-off with Eve proves a revelation. Readers may find the ending too neat, given the extent of Josh's problems, but in their richness and credibility the cast—Eve included—surpasses that of the much-admired Fanboy. Ages 16-up.
-Publishers Weekly

Whenever a book for young adults moves the bar sexually, it demands a closer look. Rainbow Party (2005), a treatise on oral sex by Paul Ruditis, does that in a crude, sensationalistic way. Brock Cole's The Facts Speak for Themselves (1997) is a finely crafted novel about a girl whose affair with an adult suits her purposes until a murder intervenes. Now comes Barry Lyga's novel, also about an affair, but here the boy is 12, and the woman is his teacher. The story is told by 18-year-old Josh Mendel. A fine mathematician, an equally able baseball player, he suffers from flashbacks he calls flickers. Readers are shocked into the story during the midst of one of his early flickers. He's at his friend Rachel's house, and the kids are in a closet, kissing. Then something happens, something ugly, though readers are not sure quite what. Move forward five years. Josh has not spoken to Rachel since, but now that graduation is drawing near, she reaches out to him. He's tempted but is held back by the memory of his relationship with his history teacher, Eve Sherman. Josh explains to the reader, sometimes in shocking detail, just what transpired. Under the guise of needing Josh to take some tests for a graduate-school project, lovely Eve begins bringing the boy to her apartment. Eventually, the test taking tapers off, and the kissing begins. Then things go further, much further. It is only after the incident in the closet, where it is eventually revealed that Josh ripped off Rachel's panties and started to do things Eve taught him, that the truth of the student-teacher sexual relationship becomes public. Once again, the story fast-forwards, and Josh, in his first-person narrative, chronicles his evolving relationship with Rachel and his tribulations on the baseball diamond as he tries to take back control of his life. When he is unable to perform sexually with Rachel after the prom, he breaks down and recounts the details of Eve's trial: how he refused to testify against her, how he believed he was in love with her and she with him. Then, in the final pages, Josh confronts Eve, who is now out of prison. Facing her, as well as the anger, fear, and confusion their relationship stirs in him, finally allows him to be free. A story about a pretty teacher seducing a boy has a "ripped from the headlines" quality about it.

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