Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

August 7, 2009

Boy Toy
Barry Lyga
ISBN 0-618-72393-5
Grades 10 to 12
Houghton Mifflin, 2007
Realistic Fiction/Abuse

One of the things Josh learned at the age of twelve was how to please a woman.

Summary:

In this story, ripped from the headlines, Josh is now a high school senior whose past won’t let him go. His teacher, Eve, molested Josh at the age of twelve.  Josh’s relationship with Eve didn’t come out until he almost raped one of his best friends; he was just doing what he was taught.  Now, his whole town knows his secret. Ever since his relationship with Eve began, Josh has experienced flickers (flashbacks). He is unable to date and feels like a social pariah. All of a sudden, Rachel, who he assaulted that day five years ago, comes back into his life and wants a relationship. The two begin hanging and gradually it turns into more. But Josh still has a lot of hang ups regarding Eve, particularly since she was just released from jail. Seeking closure, Josh tracks down Eve and confronts her. The meeting clarifies their relationship and helps him better understand his role as the victim.

Critique:

I found this disturbing novel to be very powerful. I was very moved by how much Josh didn’t understand that he was a victim. I had to put this one down a few times, but I am so glad I read it.

Curriculum Ties:

Use Boy Toy to illustrate the narrative device of flashbacks.

Controversy:

Graphic sex, child abuse, rape, violence.

This book is graphic  and explicit, provide warnings and discussion points for parents and teachers. Have reviews at the ready to defend Boy Toy. Be prepared.

Selection Rationale:

As with The Burn Journals, this is an important book because it is about issues that are normally discussed only in the context of girls. Boys are sexually abused, too. It is also an excellent portrait of the long and complex healing process one individual experiences.

“Authentic and fresh, the narrative voice develops along with Joshua, gaining experience but never overpowering the tortured undertones. Lyga’s portrayal of the fight between Joshua and Sherman’s husband is riveting and tense; the main character’s later reflections on that confrontation are equally powerful. Deftly weaving together a painful confession and ambiguous ending, Lyga’s dynamic writing style creates an emotionally wrenching and haunting tale.” – Kirkus

ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008

Booktalking:

Describe Josh’s flickers (but not the explicit content of them).

Present Josh’s story as a news headline.

Read the list of things Josh learned when he was twelve.

About the Author:

Barry Lyga is the author of the very popular novel The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl, a sequel is scheduled for a fall 2009 release. Lyga also writes comics and graphic novels.

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Skim
Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, illus.
ISBN 978-0-88899-753-1
Groundwood Books, 2008
Grade 9 and up
Graphic Novel

When one student commits suicide, everyone is obsessed, and Skim just finds herself getting more and more depressed.

Summary:

Skim is goth and Wicca (kinda). She sticks out, Asian and chubby, in a sea of slim white faces. That’s why they call her ‘Skim’ — because she isn’t. Popular Katie’s popular boyfriend kills himself and the teachers and students become obsessed. Everyone is watching her, they think she might be next. When Katie falls off a roof, her friends rally around her; Skim finds herself growing farther apart from her own best friend. Skim falls in love with her teacher, Ms. Archer, goes to a Wicca/A.A. group, chain smokes, and mopes. Social groups are shifting around her, and finally she finds herself shifting along with it, finding a new friend and possible girlfriend in Katie.

Critique:

This subtle exploration delves into sexuality, depression, and relationships. The illustrations are full of mood and emotion. Skim, her teachers, and classmates are alternately serious and funny.

Curriculum Ties:

Introduce Skim when exploring alternative forms of narrative.

Controversy:

Sexuality, suicide, romantic relationships with teachers.

Ask challengers to read the entire book and refer them to the positive reviews received by Skim.

Selection Rationale:

This is a different story and it clearly illustrates the way that social groups change during turbulent adolescent times. Many girls will find themselves able to identify with the characters in Skim. The book also shows that people are not always what you perceive them to be.

“With honesty and compassion, this innovative narrative communicates a life just beginning, open and full of possibility.” – School Library Journal

ALA Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens, 2009

ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2009

About the Author:

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki are cousins, this is their first project together. Independently, Mariko is an author (non-fiction, plays, etc.), queer activist and performance artist, and graduate student; Jillian went to school for graphic design, she works primarily as an editorial illustrator.