Book: Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian, Carolrhoda LAB/Lerner Publishing Group, October 2013
Book Info: YA realistic fiction, own hardcover book, 294 pages.
About the Book: (source: publisher)
Sex has always come without consequences for seventeen-year-old Evan. Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time. After an assault that leaves Evan scarred inside and out, he and his father retreat to the family cabin in rural Minnesota—which, ironically, turns out to be the one place where Evan can’t escape other people. Including himself. It may also offer him his best shot at making sense of his life again.
So I just finished this book and I’m at a loss for words of what to write to express my feelings on this standout debut. The title could scare some people off, and I admit I went into it with a resigned “here we go, ready or not” but while the subject matter is sex & violence to a certain extent, there is not much actual s&v in the book. Carrie Mesrobian writes a teen male POV, and I don’t pretend to understand that mind, but the dialogue reads as credible to me. The author examines themes like PTSD, sexuality, families, friendship, and gender roles. And cupcakes!
Evan Carter is a guy you may not care for at first. He fully admits that he looks for easy targets for sex, and when he gets what he wants he deletes their numbers from his phone. He finally goes after the wrong girl and both of them pay a substantial price when her boyfriend gets violent. Evan and his dad skip town for their summer cabin in Minnesota for a much needed change of scenery. Both the serious, remote dad, and Dirtbag Evan emerge as different people from that transformational summer.
Carrie Mesrobian writing just flows so effortlessly and says so much. I’m sure there’s a LOT of effort put into those words, and I really responded to the conversational tone of the book. The teen dialogue is authentic and doesn’t sound forced. There is strong language and the theme is mature, but it’s nothing I wouldn’t feel comfortable handing to my own teen daughter. I like way Mesrobian writes guys and girls and how their thinking is not so different, especially in terms of sexuality. Evan makes some assumptions about girls and he gets his mind blown when he actually takes the time to get to know them beyond the bedroom.
For the first time that summer, Evan hangs out with a real group of friends, and it’s really out of his comfort zone to let people in. One of the friends who force her way into Evan’s life is Baker Trieste. Baker is vivacious, inquisitive and friendly, and wants to spend the summer living life to the fullest before college in the fall. She pushes Evan’s buttons and helps him exorcise his demons whether he likes it or not.
Evan’s battle with PTSD is an ongoing struggle, and portrayed in a realistic way. Family, friends, therapy, and other coping strategies help him out, but he’s still Evan throughout- flaws and all.
There is a tie-in with the movie A Clockwork Orange throughout the book, a movie the guys are obsessed with, and a movie that also deals with the sex & violence theme. Another theme is cupcakes, a subject with an interesting back-story for Evan, and baking them is an unexpected talent of Evan’s.
This book has literary merit and I think has crossover appeal to teen guys, girls, and YA readers of all ages in general. This book should be on the radar of all fans of realistic fiction. I’m eager to see what Carrie Mesrobian writes next. Sex & Violence is one of PW’s best children’s fiction books of 2013.
Sex & Violence is a YA Fiction Cybils nominee.