Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

So many books... So little time...

So, last week, while working the dreaded day job (I really do like my DJ, but it's harder to take while pregnant or something, I don't know...), my CP walks in with this book she picked up in the YA section at our local second bookstore, The Thrifty Peanut. (I know, right? But this bookstore defies awesomeness in so many ways; they even have free coffee!)

"Just flip it open and read a passage," she says.

"Which?" I ask, one, because we're busier than a hooker at a bachelor party, and two, she's always got a particular passage she wants me to read.

But, alas... "Any," she confirms. "Just do it."

So, I do my norm. Flip to the middle, start reading. I land on a scene where, apparently, because it's young adult , a young boy is diligently attempting to see up a woman's--a grown woman's--skirt. And thinking all sorts of bad thoughts in the process, colorful language included.

Of course my eyes bug, jaw drops. "Wow," I say.

"Yeah," comes her short, 'I told you so" response. "I bought this for my fourteen year old son. Thank God I skimmed through it first."

I asked if I could do the same, she said, "sure," and the rest is history.

Check out Boy Toy on Amazon.com

I loved this book. Couldn't put it down. Start to finish, 416 pages, in less than 2 days. Which, for me, is a record, because I'm a slow reader. Not to mention I sleep all the time and have, like, no extra time whatsoever to do anything but try to write or check email, etc.

Mr. Lyga, to me, wrote a masterpiece. The characters are more than memorable, they're astonishingly, sometimes shockingly real. Off the charts. The type who stick with you every second of every day, and you can't get anything done, because you can't wait to pick up the book again, reacquaint yourself with Josh and Eve and Rachel and Zik. Seriously. By the second day, I was sneak-reading this novel at work, and I haven't done that, I kid you not, since grade school and Beverly Cleary.

When finally I handed it back to the CP, I dolefully added, "With great reluctance, mind. I will own this book." (She got it for $2.50, hardback, pristine condition. Sick, right?)

From the inside cover: 

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 who he thought he'd lost years ago. She's back, and she's determined to be a 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...

Josh is more than troubled. He's broken.

Based on a super-touchy subject matter, Barry Lyga's disturbingly beautiful novel speaks out not only to older teens, but to adults eager to understand their children in a way which no one I've read has depicted accurately thus far. At least not in commercial fiction. For writers, you will love the deep characterization, stellar word choices, believably endearing, sometimes very raw dialogue, and the colorful supporting cast. Most of all, I really think you'll love the growth of this young man, seeing the world through his eyes, cheering him on as he struggles to escape his torrid past.

Bravo, Barry. I am a fan for life.

Read all about Barry, as well as his other
novels & comic books on barrylyga.com

Happy reading, everyone. Tell me: Where's YOUR bookmark right now?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Searching for GMC

Hopefully by now you're all familiar with Debra Dixon's smash-hit book "GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict."  Throughout the course of the self-help wonder, Deb urges us to search for GMC in everything from movies to books, thereby teaching us to implement these important steps into our own novels. Select your favorite book off the shelf, read it again (because of course it's no chore, right? It's your fave!). Then, figure out just why it's your favorite. Characters? Yep. Plot? You bet. How the characters behave and grow throughout the plot? Now you're onto something.

Because here's the thing: EVERY great novel has GMC. Whether you want to admit it or not, it's there, it lives and breathes, and it's vital to the novel's success. Take one of my all time faves: Harry Potter. Now, let's get down to just one book: Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince. What was Harry's goal in that novel--his main goal? To prove Malfoy was truly up to something, ie. Death Eater business. All right, so, what was Harry's motivation? Malfoy's always been a stitch in Harry's side, right? They've never gotten along. Not to mention Harry saw him in Borgen and Burkes (strange & unusual store in Diagon Alley) with some pretty strange people. Great. And the conflict? Hermione and Ron, Harry's BFF's, think he's crazy. Malfoy couldn't possibly be a Death Eater.

Ron & Hermione think Harry's a complete nutter for imagining
Malfoy's a Death Eater, one of Voldemort's chosen.

Now, the GMC to this novel goes a great deal more in depth, but you get the general idea. There's also smaller GMC's during the course of the story. For example: Dumbledore hired Professor Slughorn for the Potions Master position at Hogwarts, because he wants Harry to find out the truth behind something very important he (Slughorn) told Tom Riddle (Voldemort) way back in the day, but it's not going to be easy because Slughorn doesn't want to give up the truth, so Harry has to become his friend, gain his trust.

See how that works? Smaller GMC's support the main GMC.

Harry has to win Professor Slughorn's trust before he
can obtain what Dumbledore needs.

Why am I talking about this today? I've been watching a lot of movies lately, searching for GMC in each and every plot. Last night I watched Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Two superb actors in an independent film about marriage. I watched the entire film, beginning to end. Even hit the pause button for bathroom breaks. But at the conclusion, I literally said out loud, "Really? This got 7.3 stars on IMDB?" Why, you ask? The GMC was so weak. Two people, going through their rocky marriage, reminiscing on the good old days ever so often... But no real goal, motivation, conflict. I found myself scraping for what little I could find: Dean wants a good marriage, because he really is in love with his wife, but she's slipping away from him. Cindy wants a divorce, because Dean drinks too much, but she doesn't want to break up their family, therefore hurting their little girl. I don't know; I suppose I expected more.

Here's what I want you to do, gentle reader. Watch films (Andrew, you're already two steps ahead of everybody), find the GMC, think on it. Why did this work or not work in this movie? What would you have done differently? And if there's one you watched recently that really lit up your GMC stars, share it with us!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

P.S. To all my wonderful fanfiction readers: Your next chapter is in the works. :)
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