Kirkus Reviews QR Code
BOYS LIE by John Neufeld


by John Neufeld

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-7894-2624-2
Publisher: DK Publishing

Despite an obvious agenda, this probing study of an eighth grader’s battle with terror and frustration will hit readers close to home. The traumatized victim of a group grope at a New York swimming pool, Gina has moved with her mother to Santa Barbara, hoping to fit unobtrusively into a new school, a new life. It’s not to be: not only does word of the assault get out (and, as usual, “assault” is immediately accepted as a euphemism for “rape”), it combines with her unusually early physical development to make her a target of knowing looks and invidious rumors. Feeling powerless to set the record straight, Gina attempts to wait the gossip out. Neufeld (Gaps in Stone Walls, 1996, etc.) switches between Gina’s struggle to pin down why boys misread her so completely, and the schemes of a trio of trash-talking classmates to rape her; while the frequently shifting points of view make it hard to keep characters straight, the author puts words in their mouths and thoughts in their heads that will make many readers nod—or squirm—in recognition. In the end, one boy makes the attempt alone, Gina fights him off, and when he swaggers into school claiming to have scored, she launches a devastating counterattack by standing up in class and describing what happened in precise detail. The story may be issue-heavy, but everyone displays conflicting emotions, and both good judgment and bad. (Fiction. 12-14)