Josh Mendel has a secret. Except everyone knows what it is.
Everyone seems to know what happened five years ago. Everyone seems to think they understand.
But no one does. Not really.
Years later, Josh is graduating high school soon and still trying to make sense of the pieces left in the aftermath.
But with so many broken parts Josh isn’t sure any of it–not baseball or Rachel or even closure with Eve–will be enough to make him whole again in Boy Toy (2007) by Barry Lyga.
When Josh was 12 his history teacher sexually abused him. Repeatedly. Since then Josh has been haunted by both the abuse itself and the fact that he is certain everyone in his small town knows exactly what happened thanks to Eve’s detailed confession.
Now 18, Josh is still processing what happened and his own part in moments he’d rather forget. His best friend never asks Josh about what happened. And Rachel, a girl he accidentally frightened shortly before the abuse came to light, suddenly wants to be a part of Josh’s life again.
Josh still isn’t sure what he wants. Chapters alternate between Josh’s present and past as he sifts through the beginning of Eve’s interest in him, the actual abuse, straight through to the disastrous day his parents found out what had been happening. The dual stories blend together seamlessly to create one complete picture of a broken young man who is still trying to put himself back together.
Lyga is an excellent writer and brings a nuanced, unexpected edge to this story of abuse and healing. Boy Toy has some troubling, gritty moments but it is an ultimately compelling must-read.
Possible Pairings: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Leverage by Joshua Cohen, Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy, Teach Me by R. A. Nelson, Consent by Nancy Ohlin, Sprout by Dale Peck, Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales