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Boy Toy Paperback – January 5, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

From Booklist

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. Perhaps the most famous real-life case is that of Mary Kay Letourneau and her 13-year-old boyfriend (whom she later married), but there have been others. The 2006 movie Notes on a Scandal brought a similar scenerio to the big screen. Nor is this the first YA book to deal with student-teacher relationships. Melvin Burgess' raunchy Doing It (1996), which discusses sex in a dizzying array of contexts, comes to mind, but in that book, the boy is an older teen and the teacher 20. Eve Sherman is twice the age of Josh, and while the story accurately chronicles the way children are often groomed by their predators for sexual activities, the descriptions of what goes on between the two of them are sometimes so graphic that they border on soft porn: "She dropped to her knees and unbuckled my belt, then skinned down my pants, and underpants. I was ready for her already, and she dived down, darting her head like a starving bird. . . . She stopped. "Watch me," she groaned. "Watch.' With the sexuality of a boy at the core of the story, the writing supporting it should be meticulous; otherwise, the author's exploration of a risky subject can easily be reduced to a gimmick. Brock Cole got it right in The Facts Speak for Themselves, where he so compellingly transcribes young Linda's unemotional voice as she describes everyday details and shocking events in equal measure. Lyga, author of the popular Fan Boy and Goth Girl (set in the same high school as Boy Toy), fashions a heavier burden for himself: he tries to tie so many plotlines together, the story staggers under the weight of the storytelling. The baseball subplot, complete with Josh's antagonistic relationship with his coach, sometimes seems like it belongs in another book. Another story thread about Josh's parents' devolving relationship is a distraction. Much more successful is the character development throughout. As in his previous book, Lyga's cast feels very real, and he knows how to play the characters against each other. Josh's interactions with Rachel and Eve dovetail neatly, and Lyga astutely laces Josh's feelings about his mother into that configuration. The book ends with a revelation that is surprising, if not quite believable. What will seem believable for readers is Josh's emotional journey. This is someone who has experienced sex and has experienced love, confused the two, and now, thanks to Rachel, knows the difference. Teens, who think they know so much about sexuality, may see the subject in a new way here. And if they garner the same understanding Josh does, Lyga's vivid use of sex scenes just may be worth it. Cooper, Ilene --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (January 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547076347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547076348
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #809,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Josh was an ordinary twelve year old who loved baseball, was good at school, and didn't have the best home life. His life was changed forever though when he was molested by his history teacher, Eve Sherman. Using alcohol, video games, and the allure of her body, Eve changes everything for Josh.

Now about to graduate high school, Josh learns that Eve is being released from prison. His world, only slightly sane during her imprisonment, becomes a turmoil of new thoughts and feelings. The guilt grows heavier than ever. A new relationship may fuel things for the better in Josh's life but can he ever truly move pass what happened to him.

Controversial, seductive, and all too realistic, Barry Lyga tackles a topic that has been become more and more prevalent in today's high school environment. There are no easy answers in real life, nor are there in this book. Josh is an engaging, quick-witted young man though and despite the trauma he went through at Eve's hands, he does have a good head on his shoulders. It is very easy to sympathize with Josh. How could you not? He went through a hell of a bad "relationship" at twelve years old. But things are not cut and dry in this book. Lyga does a good job of exploring Josh's character, of exploring the whys of why this happened to him.

I found myself comparing Eve a deadly spider, luring Josh into her home after school, making him feel like a man. It is easy to feel disgusted by her character, to feel contemptuous of her, but Lyga tries to not make her a flat, stock character. I appreciated his efforts, even as I knew nothing could make me like Eve.

This book gets somewhat raunchy at times.
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Format: Hardcover
In BOY TOY, author Barry Lyga takes readers on an incredible journey into a world that, for some, like main character Josh Mendel, is all too real. Josh's life was changed at age twelve when his teacher took the role of educator far beyond the limits of acceptable behavior. Lyga's story does not cut corners or mince words. He is straightforward and direct in telling Josh's story. His graphic descriptions may have earned him criticism, but they have also made his story a powerful one.

Josh Mendel loves baseball. He is a wiz at math. His best friend, Zik, seems to be the one with the rocky home life and all the problems, but not for long.

Mrs. Evelyn Sherman is the new history teacher recently transferred from the local high school to the middle school. She is drop-dead gorgeous. All the boys probably find it a bit embarrassing to stand up and leave the classroom some days. Josh certainly does.

Josh's involvement with Mrs. Sherman begins when she praises his writing and asks him to help her with a project for her graduate class. Honored and excited, Josh is eager to help. Problems at home make staying after school, and later actually going home with Mrs. Sherman, a convenience for Josh and his parents. He begins spending more and more time with her even after her project is complete.

At first, being in Mrs. Sherman's apartment everyday after school is exciting, because Josh gets to play unlimited video games, drink Coke, and hang out with an attentive, beautiful woman. His time in the apartment becomes even more fascinating when Mrs. Sherman begins inviting him to help her cook dinner and sip wine with her. Then kisses begin - tentative and then passionate. The passion moves from petting to full-on sexual experimentation.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

I used to work for a local newspaper, and one of my tasks was typing up the weekly police blotter. Most of the contents of the blotter were your run-of-the-mill car accidents, petty theft, or disorderly conduct, but every now and then a report of child molestation would come across my desk. The reports were sickening, and each time I typed up the details of the incident I would ask myself a) how someone could be twisted enough to engage in a sexual relationship with a child and b) how that relationship had come about in the first place.

Barry Lyga explores the answers to those questions, and more, in Boy Toy. The story centers on Josh Mendel, a senior in high school who, five years earlier, was involved in a full-blown affair with his seventh-grade history teacher. The book goes back and forth between the present and the past, taking you through the life of the affair from beginning to end and showing the impact it has on Josh’s life five years after the fact.

The amazing thing about Boy Toy is that even though it’s about a very heavy subject, it’s still compelling. I honestly could not stop reading it – I switched from my small purse to my jumbo diaper bag of a purse just so I could carry Boy Toy with me everywhere I went. I wanted to hear Josh’s story. I wanted to understand. How on earth did a 12-year-old boy end up having sex with his teacher? What did the teacher see in him? How was their relationship discovered? What were the implications for Josh later, as a teenager?

What’s brilliant about Lyga’s writing is that he makes you look at things in ways you’d never expect. For one thing, I never would have anticipated that I would sympathize with Eve, the woman who molested Josh.
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