Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.
"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
For Older Teens and Adults: BOY TOY
I know it's late folks, but Barry Lyga is my latest writer/hero, so I couldn't resist giving him a shout out tonight. I had met him at Books of Wonder a few weeks ago at the launch party for Sourcebooks and was charmed. Who was this man who looks like Liev Shreiber, with an open face and friendly smile? I didn't set out to read his book, Boy Toy, but I couldn't leave without a signed copy.
"Some parents have a hard time reading it," he warned gently, and I scoffed.
"I think I can handle it," said I, confident that I had tackled some pretty serious issues not only in my fiction, but in my life.
Well . . . he was right. The trauma of sexual abuse does not make for light reading.
At seventeen, Josh Mendel is incapable of intimacy with anyone, including his best and only friend. All he does is study for the "A" and play baseball. No dates, no parties - no socializing, period.
Ever hear the one about the boy who died after having an affair with his teacher? He died high fivin'. Ba-dum-dum. (Male guffawing and laughter ensues.)
When Josh Mendel is twelve, he gets the amazing opportunity to spend time with his "hot" history teacher, alone, in her apartment. He gets to play video games, get her drinks, and is treated like an adult. He likes it, he starts to love it, to love her, to fall-in-love . . . He starts to look at her in a sexual way, and then . . . this is way beyond Mrs. Robinson folks. It is a look into how predators often work, and as a parent, yes, I am horrified. And moved beyond belief by the grief and pain Mr. Lyga has painted.
Do boys get the subconscious message that it's manly to objectify women? That they're all about sex, while it's only girls who want intimacy? Are girls and boys the only ones who are traumatized from sexual abuse by men? Barry takes an unflinching look at not only Josh's emotional landscape as he travels down this path, but at the damage ingrained by our cultural attitudes towards sex and gender.
There were times when this book as so excruciatingly painful and uncomfortable, that I had to stop reading. And yet there were others, like tonight when I couldn't put it down until I had finished it. I had to see the character arc through - to move into hope of recovery. And I wasn't disappointed! I wish that Mr. Lyga and this book had been around when I was a teen: it sure would have helped me understand boys better! But I can be grateful that Mr. Lyga and his growing lexicon are with us now, and are here for future generations.