Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga--Stupeflix

Bibliography: Lyga, B. (2007). Boy toy. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Summary: Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.

Five years ago Josh’s life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town—seems like the world—thinks they understand. But they don’t—they can’t.

And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces. First there’s Rachel, the girl he thought he’d lost years ago. She’s back, and she’s determined to be part of his life, whether he wants her there or not.

Then there are college decisions to make, and the toughest baseball game of his life coming up, and a coach who won’t stop pushing Josh all the way to the brink.

And then there’s Eve. Her return brings with it all the memories of Josh’s past. It’s time for Josh to face the truth about what happened.

If only he knew what the truth was… (Houghton Mifflin Company).

Tool: Stupeflix

Stupeflix is an easy-to-use video tool that is similar to Animoto or PhotoPeach: simply upload your images, and Stupeflix will render them into a professional video. A feature that I really appreciated that is absent from many congruent tools is its text capability--i.e. users can insert text slides or add captions to their images. This feature was invaluable when making a book trailer for Boy Toy. Because Josh's story is told via flashbacks and because much of it is too graphic to include in a book trailer destined for YouTube, visual literacy must be assisted with a boost from actual literacy: a series of seemingly random images is drawn together using text. Users are also able to edit their own slide transitions.

Stupeflix has only two cons: 1) users are limited to one-minute free videos (anything over that limit will cost you), and 2) videos are unable to be embedded. They are, however, able to be exported to both Facebook and YouTube. From YouTube, users may embed their videos on other sites, as seen below; while this inconvenience would not keep me from recommending this tool, users should be aware of this additional step. Overall, however, I found my Stupeflix experience to be relaxing and enjoyable.

Review: I first read about Boy Toy in a School Library Journal article about self-censorship. Apparently, when the expected challenges to Barry Lyga’s book did not materialize, he did a little digging and discovered that because librarians were so concerned about its subject matter—-child molestation-—Boy Toy was not being purchased for collections. In short, Boy Toy was not offending anyone because it was not available to anyone. (Whelan, D. L. (2009). A dirty little secret. School Library Journal, 55(2), 26-30.)

The content is certainly mature. What I found offensive about this book, however, was not the protagonist’s detailed flashbacks of his sexual relations with his teacher, but that the author and/or his editors assumed that by producing controversial material, Lyga could get away with poor storytelling. Boy Toy is not written well, which is not evident at first. Josh is a humorous, engaging narrator, and he often uses the “F” word and talks about women in relation to their various body parts, seeming like a realistic 18-year-old boy…until the reader finds out he was molested. As the details of his childhood trauma are revealed, the character becomes less and less believable and finally loses all credibility post-climax when he “learns his lesson” and moves on.

None of the other characters—-with the exception of Eve, Josh’s abuser-—are believable either and are included simply to pad the juicy meat of the story, Josh's and Eve’s relationship. Rachel, Josh’s girlfriend, is especially pointless, serving only as a tool to initiate Josh’s flashbacks, which he relates after she coldly demands that it is her “right to know” everything that happened between the 12-year-old Josh and the adult that abused him. Um, what?

Lyga took a brave step by writing about such a heavy subject so graphically, but Boy Toy has no follow-through. He attempts to show that his character is scarred by referencing Josh’s affinity for math and including an awkward baseball subplot. These additions are clearly metaphors for Josh’s need to control the situations around him since he wasn’t able to as a child, but they wear thin quickly. The reality is that Josh will be struggling—-and healing—-emotionally and mentally for the rest of his life, and reducing child abuse to an "AHA!" moment is somewhat demoralizing. Real issues such as Boy Toy's are so important to include in the library, but this particular presentation is disappointing. Grades 10+.

1 comment:

  1. As a middle school library staffer, I wouldn't be in the market for this one, but wanted to thank you for the review of both the book and Stupeflix. I'll be sharing it--Stupeflix, not Boy Toy-- with teachers after winter break!