Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga


I never would have picked up this book if it wasn't for the review on MssJos's blog. So I have to thank her because this novel is awesome.

It's the kind of book I wouldn't pick just by appearance in the library. I think the cover makes the book a little sexier than it is but at the same time I'm like, what's that about? Even the inside blurb is weird and strangely vague. Makes it sound almost like a sports novel and baseball is not my thing. I only like to read sports novels about basketball (How closed minded of me!).

Yes, I've definitely passed on this book for a couple of years and I'm sorry that I did.

In some ways Boy Toy is what you'd expect but mostly it's completely different from what you can imagine. Talk about bringing characters to the brink. Author Barry Lyga is fearless.

I think to give a proper sort of summary you have to get a bit spoilery. Five years ago, Josh Medel's life changed when he was molested by his 7th grade history teacher when he was 12. Now, age 18, a senior in high school, he's been trying to keep it together by maintaining a low profile in his small town, focusing on his sport baseball and on his grades so that he can get into his dream Ivy League school. There are only a few weeks of school left so it seems like everything should be ending but Josh's recovery is just beginning. Rachel, his former best friend, is ready to learn the truth, whether Josh likes it or not and in learning how to trust Rachel and others around him, Josh discovers a truth about himself.

And there's baseball. And best friends. And parents. And secrets.

The book is long. It's 416 pages but it is utterly captivating. Josh's voice just leaps off the page. You are instantly in his head from page one. The book occurs in the present and also in Josh's 12-year-old past. It's amazing how Lyga writes from the point of view of Josh describing himself at 12-years-old with this dual consciousness yet you know both versions of Josh are wrong about many things. The immediacy of Josh on the page was what drew me further into the story. It commanded me to keep turning the page. Sometimes I had to stop and catch my breath, think about what was happening, go over in my mind. I could feel every word in my brain.

I love books like that.

Josh isn't the only excellent character in this novel. Every character is carefully crafted and completely real and complex. For such a long novel there aren't many characters and it really shows with the time devoted to each one so that the reader is really able to get to know them. Even the predator, Josh's teacher Eve, is given time to become real and in the end, well, there's something else there. You could almost feel a little sorry for her.

The best part about this book is that it takes it's time, drawing you in, explaining things, getting to know the characters. Every section is carefully written. The pacing is excellent. The build up is breath-taking. The ending is just what you always feared but at the end it's what you needed. I felt a sense of satisfaction once I finished the book, sadness too, and lots of pride for Josh and everything he was able to achieve.

The sex in this book is never gratuitous or overly graphic. It's disturbing but for other reasons than how it is described. I wouldn't let that deter you from the novel. You'll be so caught up in Josh's story that quickly you'll be moving on to the next thing. The sex is nothing if not-- using that strange literary term-- earned.

Above all, Boy Toy has excellent writing. His dialogue is particularly strong. There's humor wrapped up in all of this, lines that made me laugh out loud. It was a delicate mix that I really appreciated.

Here's a tip! For more than half the book I was reading Josh's best friend Zik's name as Zeke... but it's actually short for Isaac! Get it? The end of Isaac? Haha, I'm dumb.

I could tell you more about this book and what goes on there. I feel like I've barely begun to scratch the surface. But you need to try this out for yourself. It's a challenging read but in an important way. So I hope you give Boy Toy a chance.

My favorite part (page 228-229):

"See, forgiveness doesn't happen all at once. It's not an event-- it's a process. Forgiveness happens while you're asleep, while you're dreaming, while you're in line at the coffee shop, while you're showering, eating, farting, jerking off. It happens in the back of your mind, and then one day you realize that you don't hate the person anymore, that your anger has gone away somewhere. And you understand. You've forgiven them. You don't know how or why. It sneaked up on you. It happened in the small spaces between thoughts and in the seconds between ideas and blinks. That's where forgiveness happens. Because anger and hatred, when left unfed, bleed away like air from a punctured tire, over time and days and years.

Forgiveness is stealth.

At least, that's what I hope."

Highly recommended! Now in paperback!


  1. What an awesome review!
    I just wanted to let you know how great your blog is (love the water background - very cool) -- how are you going with your novel?


  2. I totally agree, fantastic review! I was never interested in this book. Then again, I suppose I never really gave it a chance. (A little close-minded as well lol)

    Your review has seriously made me re-think my decision. I'm definitely gonna get myself a copy and read this!


  3. I don't know why haven't read Boy Toy yet. I've heard great things for years, after reading this I will finally have to pick it up.

  4. This one sounds so good. I have to start reading it soon.

  5. I'm going to pick this up because of your review. I wouldn't have looked at it on my own. Thanks.