Monday, June 25, 2012

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

When he was twelve, Josh Mendel had a very adult affair with his twenty-four-year-old history teacher, Eve. Now, five years later, Eve is being released from prison, and Josh has mixed emotions. Was he really molested? Or, was it a consenual realtionship? Why did his parents force him to press charges and ruin everyone's life? As he relives those secret moments from his past, Josh shows that when the lines between teacher and student get blurred, bad things happen.

Barry Lyga addresses the taboo subject of teachers being sexual predators. Against the backdrop of a middle school setting, he takes a stark and honest look at how authority figures draw in susceptible students and abuse their power. Although many readers are turned off by the predator being a woman (because it plays into stereotypes), Lyga's goal is to effectively show the devastating effects of sexual abuse, which he does - regardless of gender. As Josh works through his conflicting emotions about Eve being released and takes on the guilt for everything that happened five years prior, Lyga shows that circumstances aren't as cut-and-dry as people like to pretend.

This book will make readers uncomfortable. It should. It doesn't gloss over sexual abuse. (And, teachers who have affairs with students ARE sexual predators.) Instead, Lyga walks the reader through the process that predators use to lure their victims and keep them silent through guilt and shame. This book goes into sexual detail and doesn't glamorize the inapporpriate relationship between Josh and Eve, which adds to its validity and importance. Instead, it faces it head-on, and makes the reader think about how every action has a lesser or greater reaction. Just because we refuse to talk about something, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

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