Sunday, February 15, 2009

Review in Two: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Josh has a lot on his mind as a senior in his last semester of high school: maintaining his stellar batting and grade point averages, that whole "college" thing, and, thanks to some recent developments, facing the realities about what happened five years ago, involving his middle school history teacher, and a childhood best friend. The shocking details of his manipulation and molestation at the hands of a trusted adult simultaneously grip and horrify in this emotional read.

It took me forever to figure out what to say in those two sentences. I'm still reeling from the way the story unfolded and attempting to figure out what young adult audience could appropriately handle the contents of Boy Toy. Don't get me wrong - I was riveted and thought it was an amazing book and am anxious to read more of Lyga's novels. I'm just not sure what to do with this book in the hands of a teen. The sometimes graphic sexual content makes me fearful of teenage boys reading and coming to the wrong conclusion about how to respond to some of the scenes. Of course, it would probably be the girls that would read it, and I'm not sure how they'd react. That said, I think it has a place in a public library's collection, and maybe even a high school's collection, if they had a big enough budget to purchase many other books first.

**SPOILER ALERT** (It's been out a while, but just in case you don't want to know too much...)

As a trained sexual assault support advocate, I'm also fairly distraught over the portrayal of the legal proceedings. From the moment the truth began to come out I was disgusted by the way Josh's parents and the police treated him, acting as though he were a criminal, and not the victim. I can't recall a single sentence of dialogue uttered by an adult that sought to assure Josh that he did nothing wrong or show him any ounce of compassion or comfort. Also, I'm not sure what the laws are in Maryland, but the last time I checked (at least in New Jersey), victims of sexual assault cannot be compelled to testify AND great pains are taken to ensure that IF they agree to testify - particularly in incidences of CHILD molestation - the defendant is NOT in the courtroom. While the accused do have the right to confront their accusers, I'm fairly certain this is suspended in these cases, similar to the way it is in domestic violence cases.*

*But I could be wrong, of course.


  1. It's been a while since I read the book, but IIRC, Josh testified because 1) his parents forced him to, and 2) it was a way to avoid being prosecuted for attacking the girl in the closet.

  2. When Josh refused to testify, Rachel's (girl in closet's) parents did agree not to prosecute, but that was more because they were worried that he was refusing to testify out of fear that it could be used against him - which wasn't why he wasn't testifying. His parents definitely did seem to be forcing him to testify (though Lord knows why, since he submitted written testimony that was admitted as evidence). The whole legal process and the way the parents and authorities reacted just didn't ring true to me.