Just so you knew what you were getting into before you settled in...
For those of you who are like NOT living and breathing by YA Lit, here's a little background on the issues with this particular Teen Title:
At it's publication, Boy Toy received excellent reviews from the New York Times, and a starred review in Publisher's Weekly. Teens and librarians alike who were reading it were thoroughly impressed with it.
Now, considering Boy Toy's subject matter (see my typelist to the left), it wasn't as if no one anticipated there being any problems with this book. I mean, if people were burning Harry Potter, what would they do with a book that had a sexual relationship between a 12 year old boy and a 24 year old teacher in it? The big thing was...these complaints were not coming from the places they were expected to be coming from.
The book was never even making it into the hands of those who would complain. Why? Librarians, media specialists and even some bookstores...weren't buying it.
Now for a book that had gotten so much critical acclaim...the question is, why not?
The answer? Self-censorship. Check out this article regarding self-censorship which appeared in School Library Journal in February.
Basically, in anticipation of the complaints and protests they would receive, those in a position to purchase this book, weren't. As a TeenBrarian, and a TeenBrarian in Georgia no less...I do feel their pain. There are assholes like this guywho want to crucify librarians for some of the books they order. They make it personal. They go on witch hunts. And as many of you know from reading this blog, people can be farkin' dickhats because their internerds are moving too slowly...imagine what they might do to you if they feel their kid has been reading naughty books because of you. Granted, as a PARENT it is their responsibility to monitor their kids' reading habits, if they so choose. But no one wants to hear that. If I'm supposed to be signing into their gmail for them, I imagine I'm supposed to be raising their kids too. I can make judgment calls all day about how I'd much rather a teen be exposed to sex and appropriate vs dangerous sexual relationships through a book, than through real life. I can say "Hey parents, maybe this can open up the chance for a healthy dialogue with your kid about SEX" until I'm blue in the face...but in the end? I'm NOT their parents. My job is simply to provide a varied, interesting, colorful, wonderful, non-biased, and quality collection for these teens to choose from.
Boy Toy? Would definitely be a part of any wise librarian's collection, regardless of who comes at you with torches and pitchforks.
This is a spectacularly written book with characters who are vivid and unflinchingly true to life. I have found it's been very difficult for me to articulate how I feel about this book adequately. But I'm going to try.
Where I think some might take serious issue is in the fact that I didn't find that there was any sort of, heavy-handed moral lesson at the end of this book. Yes. Everyone sort of pays for their misdeeds, or suffers the consequences of events that have happened. Eve Sherman goes to jail, Josh struggles with intimacy. But mainly, Lyga tells a story, and the reader is asked to form their own opinions. Personally, I feel that this is what makes this book so brilliant. It's uncomfortable to read to some extent, but at the same time immensely powerful. The relationship between Evelyn Sherman and Josh Mendel is at first shown to us through Josh's eyes only. The intimate scenes between them border on titillating, which is another reason why folks might flip a shit, but the bottom line is...this is a 12 year old boy and his super hot older teacher...who treats him like an adult, who offers him wine, and tells him he's "not like other kids." In his narration? I think this is exactly how his voice should sound. We, as readers, can see this as clearly problematic, but Josh, as the victim...can't. Another thing I found fascinating, was how difficult it was to simply dismiss Evelyn Sherman as "an evil molester". Yes, clearly, she is sick. But sick in a way that stems for an emotional desperation and loneliness that makes her plight ALMOST sympathetic. And in the midst of all this going on? We have Josh's baseball season, college acceptance letters, a girlfriend and the prom. I guess what I'm saying is nothing about this book is cut and dry. Nothing about the reader's responses will be cut and dry either. The only thing I can say with certainty is that this is a fine example of teen LITERATURE not teen craptastic crappy crap (I'm looking at YOU Gossip Girl). It's complicated, terrifying, brave and will stay with you long after you closed it's pages.
So, Librarians. Be fearless. There's a lot worse shit out there...trust me. Don't take the easy way out. We are the last true stronghold of freedom of speech. Do you think I don't almost throw up in my mouth EVERY TIME I have to order a book about how liberals are destroying America or how Global Warming is a leftist agenda? Trust me. I do. But the library is the last place on earth providing free and equal access to information to the world. It might be the last place on earth providing free and equal ANYTHING for that matter.
Do your job. Do right by the teens you serve and trust them to make their own judgment calls. Don't coddle them. You'll do them an immense disservice if you do.
Life is hard, traumatic, disappointing, and painfully wonderful. Boy Toy is a story that tells it like it is, and isn't that refreshing?