Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Bibliographic information: Boy Toy. Barry Lyga. Houghton Mifflin, 2007. $16.99. 410p. ISBN-13:  9780618723935.
Summary:  Joshua Mendel is 18 years old. It started when he was twelve and continued until he was thirteen and in the 7th grade. His history teacher, Evelyn Sherman (Eve), molested him. It began as a friendship that turned into much more. Josh had believed he was in love with Eve, she claimed to loved him. Before long, their relationship progressed into a sexual one. At the 13th birthday party for Rachel, Josh’s friend, he practically raped her in the closet because he was just doing what Eve taught him. This caused everything about Eve and Josh to be revealed. Eve was sent to jail and Josh was left to struggle through life with flickers of memories from his time with Eve and everybody always judging him. However, five years later, Eve is out of jail and Josh is panicking. He was just trying to get through school with good grades and play baseball so that he could go to college, far from home. Now he has to worry about running into Eve, which dredges up a lot of memories. Not to mention, he just ran into Rachel, whom he has not talked to in five years.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: grade 10 and up
Review: Boy Toy is a riveting title that will suck you in and keep you engrossed for hours. The story is powerful and sheds light on issues you do not normally come across. This story is written in the first person view-point of Joshua Mendel; he speaks from the present and from his past. Josh is a character who a lot of teenagers can relate to on a basic level. He likes to play baseball and get good grades in hopes of getting into a decent college. However, (and this is where he is different) being molested by his history teacher makes it hard for him to fit in with other teenagers. This title is well written and deserves to be on every library’s shelf.
Readers’ annotation: Five years ago Josh’s life changed all because of one person, his history teacher, Eve. Everybody thinks they understand what Josh is going through, but they don’t.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book is deeply emotional and even though some people may object to its student-teacher relationship or the explicit sex scenes it provides an outlet for children who are experiences similar situations. They can read this book and know that they are not the only ones who are struggling with their feelings about being abused by an adult or taken advantage of. Lyga describes in detail what occurred to Josh so that the reader can understand what he went through and that he was able to survive the situation and slowly move on in his life.
Issues present: This book has a student-teacher relationship that can be considered child abuse since Josh was so young when it happened. However, the book itself is about Josh’s struggle to fit into society after being branded with a “don’t touch” label. The teacher in question ended up being punished and serving her sentence. There is also explicit sex scenes and vulgar language that can be objected to, but it’s not something older teens have not already heard.
Booktalk ideas:  Pg 1-2 paragraphs about Kaltenbach insulting Josh and then Josh hitting him so hard his head bounces off the bleachers – has a great luring effect.
Talk about when Josh first saw his history teacher.
Genre or subject: Realistic Fiction: student/teacher relationships
Readalikes:  Teach Me, Living Dead Girl, The Chosen One, Hope in Patience
Author’s website:
Awards: YA Cybil Award (2007).
Reviews:  Publisher’s Weekly:; School Library Journal:
Why I chose it: I read about this book when I was writing a paper on censorship in libraries for another class and I thought it would be an interesting read and a great addition to my collection.

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Filed under Toxic parents and teachers

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