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Boy Toy

Updated on June 9, 2011

To continue my apparent recent interest in young adults who have been traumatized, "Boy Toy" is the sort of YA novel I'm not sure parents would be entirely comfortable with their young adult children reading. That said, this is the sort of book I'm sure both adults and young adults would find interesting.

Josh Mendel is a brilliant high school senior (he's never gotten below an A in any class since elementary school), as well as an unbelievably good hitter on his high school baseball team. That said, he's also seriously messed up in the head: in the first chapter he decks his baseball coach for an off color comment regarding his past. This past has made him a sort of social outcast, at least partially by choice: he's deeply suspicious of pretty much everyone around him, particulary adult authority figures, and he experiences what he terms "flickers," which are probably a form of PTSD (he flashes back in time to random events in his past).

Josh, five years before, was statutorily raped by his middle school history teacher, a beautiful young woman named Evelyn Sherman. This ended with Eve being sent to jail and Josh being uncomfortable around girls ever since, particularly his childhood friend Rachel, who he himself attempted to sexually assault (this was how his relationship with Eve was discovered), and whom he hasn't talked to since.

But Eve is being released early on good behavior, a very important baseball game is approaching (one on which an all-important athletic scholarship to Stanford is riding), and Rachel is suddenly and insistently back in Josh's life again, wanting to start back up from where they left off five years before. All of these will force Josh to deal with what happened before, and possibly recieve the healing he never did in the past five years.

What I liked the most about "Boy Toy" was how the characters were emphatically not perfect. Josh is kind of an asshole more often than not, and he's also rather self-obsessed, thinking that everyone in his hometown are snickering behind his back at him. I liked how the other characters (particularly Rachel) don't let him get away with it, even though he is somewhat justified in his paranoia, anger, and suspicion. Eve herself (who mostly appears in flashbacks) is another interesting character, neither a fool who did something stupid nor a calculating monster, but something intriguingly in the middle. In a series of flashbacks dealing with Eve's trial, I loved how the detectives and prosecutors, people who theoretically are supposed to be on Josh's side, use tactics that, at least in Josh's 13-year old mind, appear as scarring as, if not more so, than whatever Eve did to him. No one is black in this story, and no one is white.

The story is perhaps a little unevenly paced. Much of the first few chapters is set up, and there are two lengthy flashbacks to explain what went on in the past. A lot of the major plot resolution happens in the last, very short, five chapters or so. But this is only a minor flaw, if a flaw at all.

All in all, a good book in my opinion. It deals with delicate issues very well, as well as producing a character that seems to be a realistic depiction of someone who has been sexually abused. Read it if you don't mind its rather heavy subject matter.


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