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.

Ride Wit’ Me
Katina King
ISBN 0-9724003-8-9
Young Diamond Books, 2006
Grade 9 and up
Urban Fiction

Mercedes’ father forbids her from seeing Dalvin. Why are the two being forced apart? What lengths will the teens go to to be together?

Summary:

In this modern day, ghetto, Romeo and Juliet, Mercedes and Dalvin find themselves in a doomed relationship. The children of two prominent Chicago crime families, their romance is forbidden by Mercedes’ father. Dalvin’s family is the enemy in his eyes. Mercedes lives a life of wealth and privilege, unaware of her father’s true profession. Mercedes’ father is a major gangster, controlling half of Chicago’s streets. Dalvin and his father control the rest. An old fued drives Mercedes’ father to forbid her relationship with Dalvin. He goes so far as too bring his crew into Dalvin’s parents’ home, threatening them with guns. The whole thing nearly ends in a shootout, luckily Mercedes gives in to her father and agrees to stop seeing Dalvin. Although she doesn’t like the decision, it is preferable to having everyone she cares about killed. Mercedes starts seeing Jacon, who her parents love. Everyone gets a lesson about judging people when Jacob attempts to rape Mercedes. Dalvin discovers the two and saves Mercedes. The tension between families is resolved when Jacob’s true nature comes to light. Dalvin and Mercedes plan to get married with their parents’ blessing.

Critique:

Although this wasn’t my favorite selection, I really enjoyed the story. This is an accessible story and there are lots of elements for teens to identify with. The writing is not perfect, Ride Wit’ Me has a number of spelling and grammatical errors. But this is an engrossing and fast read that will get teens reading and show the importance of sticking with your beliefs.

Controversy:

Language, descriptions of oral sex and intercourse, glorification of illegal activities

Ride Wit’ Me and all of its trappings are representative of the genre. Point the book’s popularity with students, encourage parents and other challenger to engage readers in discussions about the pros and cons of Mercedes and Dalvin’s lifestyle.

Curriculum Ties:

Compare and contrast with other tales of star crossed lovers such as Romeo and Juliet.

Selection Rationale:

This is a book written for teens that is much more in the vein of traditional urban fiction than most of my other selections; it is sexy, gritty, explicit, glorifies wealth, and a life of crime. It is fabulous. This will book attract readers.

“Following in the footsteps of books like Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever (S & S, 1999), this title is a much lighter account of street life… A fast read, the story might appeal to fans of Deja King’s adult books, and is a good addition to libraries looking for more urban popular fiction without the raw street language that goes with so much of it.” – School Library Journal

Booktalking:

Read aloud the section on mo’ money, mo’ problems. Pages 1-2, up to “But, baby girl, you’re worth it.”

Write a monologue from the perspective of Dalvin about his life.

About the Author:

I believe Katina King is a pen name of author Joy King, co-owner of Young Diamond Books, who writes urban fiction for adults under the pen name Deja King. Young Diamond is a new publishing company specializing in street lit for young adults, Ride Wit’ Me is their first publication.

Additional Information:

Katina King intends Ride Wit’ Me to be the first book in a series.

Bluford High: Summer of Secrets
Paul Langan
Scholastic, 2008
Grade 6 and up (Summer of Secrets is written for 5th or 6th grade reading levels, but has content sophisticated enough for high school students)
Urban Fiction

Darcy Wills is being eaten up by her secret; but when everyone else seems to have a secret too, the load becomes too much.

Summary:

It seems like this summer is definitely the summer of secrets to Darcy Wills. Darcy has her own secret, but it seems like everyone else is keeping secrets, too. Darcy is still dealing with a sexual assault that only her parents know about. The near rape happened with a boy she’d been warned about by her former friend. After losing her good friend and boyfriend, Hakeem, when he moves away, Darcy starts dating another boy. Unfortunately, he turns out to be a predator. This secret is getting in the way of Darcy’s relationships and prohibiting her from moving on after her break up with Hakeem. She is finding it difficult to heal, developing a lot of rage and suspicion as a result. Darcy sees danger signs everywhere, sometimes in the right places. When her old friend starts dating a questionable new guy, Darcy gives her a heads up about the situation and it turns out she was right. Summer of Secrets ties up relatively neatly, Darcy takes steps toward recovery and rebuilding the relationships she lost, her parents let her in on their secret: they’re pregnant, and learns to stand up for her friends and her beliefs even when its difficult.

Critique:

This is an excellent hi-lo read, although I suspect it would have been more enjoyable had I read the book that precludes this story (Until We Meet Again). Summer of Secrets addresses the complicated emotions of rape in a competent manner, in particular stigma that can generate secrecy. I really appreciated the way that female friendship and looking out for each other was highlighted in this story.

Curriculum Ties:

None.

Controversy:

Addresses rape, teen sex, and domestic violence.

Highlight to challengers the manner in which these issues are addressed in the book. Point out the popularity amongst students and librarians.

Selection Rationale:

The Bluford High series is a perfect example of Hi-Lo readers; these will engage students who may have a difficult time with fiction.

Highly recommended by many librarians and teachers as a hi-lo read to get reluctant and low-level readers into fiction.

Booktalking:

Reflect on the dangers of keeping secrets from Darcy’s point of view.

About the Author:

Paul Langan was born in Philadelphia in 1972, he studied creative writing in college. After working as an Assistant Editor at Townsend Press for awhile, he began writing and editing for the Bluford series.