Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
Published by Carolrhoda Lab
Publish Date: October 1, 2013
Find it here: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N
AT FIRST YOU DON’T SEE THE CONNECTION.
Sex has always come without consequences for seventeen-year-old Evan Carter. He has a strategy–knows the profile of The Girl Who Would Say Yes. In each new town, each new school, he can count on plenty of action before he and his father move again. Getting down is never a problem. Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time.
AND THEN YOU CAN’T SEE ANYTHING ELSE.
After an assault that leaves Evan bleeding and broken, his father takes him to the family cabin in rural Pearl Lake, Minnesota, so Evan’s body can heal. But what about his mind?
HOW DO YOU GO ON, WHEN YOU CAN’T THINK OF ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER?
Nothing seems natural to Evan anymore. Nothing seems safe. The fear–and the guilt–are inescapable. He can’t sort out how he feels about anyone, least of all himself. Evan’s really never known another person well, and Pearl Lake is the kind of place where people know everything about each other–where there might be other reasons to talk to a girl. It’s annoying as hell. It might also be Evan’s best shot to untangle sex and violence. (from Goodreads)
Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
My Thoughts: This review is one of the hardest I probably will write because what I really want to do, rather than write it and post it online, is just sit down with everyone and just TALK ABOUT IT. There is so much depth to this book, to this amazing main character, and to this fantastic secondary cast of characters that I feel like any review that I write (however long it is) just won’t be enough nor do the book any justice.
The first thing you need to know is this:
Evan Carter is the New Guy at his school.
Evan skips chapel at his boarding school one day to find Collette Holmander waiting for him in his dorm – girls aren’t allowed! – so he lets her into his room. At first, it seems that Collette is only there as a messenger for another girl – and perhaps she is – but it isn’t long before the two have this super-quick and super-steamy kiss. And it’s enough for Evan and Collette to begin regularly skipping chapel to meet and engage in some, ahem, activities.
Evan is one of those guys, you see. Being the New Guy at several schools all over the United States over the past few years certainly has had its advantages: Evan is like a novelty, a toy. He’s shiny, something for the girls to want. This certainly pleases Evan, and this is again the case at this newest school. There are girls here that want him as well. One, for example, Farrah, is cute enough – but to Evan the looks don’t really matter. All Evan wants is “Girls Who [Would] Say Yes” and by YES, he doesn’t mean yes to hanging out or sharing their phone numbers – he wants naked or naked enough.
YEP. Evan is THAT kind of guy.
And apparently so is Collette, Farrah’s friend and messenger. Because while Collette continues to meet Evan, she has no qualms about going a little further, a little further, a little further every time she sees Evan.
Evan never even makes it as far as Farrah. He’s happy enough with Collette, thankyouverymuch. She’s a “Yes” girl, you see.
The second thing you need to know is this:
There are some people who aren’t pleased with
the attention Evan is giving Collette
NOR the attention Farrah is giving Evan.
Evan’s roommate Patrick “The Rammer” Ramsey used to date Collette – they didn’t end on great terms, but he has some sort of unusual attachment to her even though she is over him completely. And Farrah has an on-again/off-again boyfriend (Tate Kerrigan) that she’s been dating for a long time – apparently they are currently “off” but Tate doesn’t really seem to understand this. Even though Tate thinks it’s cool if HE dates other girls when he and Farrah are apart, he doesn’t want anyone else touching what he considers his. (JERK.)
Well, Patrick and Tate both have issues with Evan. All Evan is doing is being his regular “get-some” self – but only with Collette, mind you. He hasn’t even considered Farrah! Unfortunately, both Patrick and Tate decide to teach Evan a message in the form of an extremely brutal, life-threatening beating that puts him in the hospital for days. Evan ends up requiring surgery and he actually could have died.
Evan is immediately taken out of school and his father decides to move from Charlotte, NC to Pearl Lake, Minnesota with him – which is a really great thing for Evan. But it’s also a scary thing for Evan because it forces him to really examine himself and confront some big issues in his life – stuff that he’d probably never have even noticed or been willing to change had this hateful crime not occurred.
The third thing you need to know is this:
Evan is in Minnesota for the summer with his father. While he’s there, a bazillion things happen to him and for him. He begins to have a closer relationship with his father, which is something that he had been missing out on. His father spends time with him and teaches him things like boating, which is kind of cool. Also, his father makes him go to therapy, which at first makes him extremely angry. However, through these therapy sessions Evan is able to face some serious issues about what happened and how it has changed him – his intense anxiety and fear, and his inability to shake it. His therapist gives him an assignment – write a letter to someone each week – and it is through these letters (unsent, if he wishes) that he really gives his true, deep, inner feelings and we are able to learn who Evan is at his core.
It is also during this time in Minnesota that we see Evan build relationships for the first time, both with adults and with people his own age. Remember that as a womanizing teenage sex-crazed boy, Evan was never establishing relationships with the girls he slept with – he often deleted their phone numbers right away and never saw them again, and he always deleted their phone numbers when he moved from school to school. He rarely had friends because he was the New Guy so frequently. But here, in Minnesota, he is basically forced to spend a summer around this group of people that have known each other for long periods of time and this allows him to learn to trust some of these people that already trust each other. They welcome him without question, with open arms and he isn’t used to this – but it is really nice. He also begins to trust some of the adults that are allowed into his life: his uncle, his boss, different people. Evan’s entire life changes in Minnesota.
Minnesota is a super-quick life lesson in Evan/for Evan, summarized and packed into a short summer, and it is really great. I loved it.
Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian is absolutely brilliant – she nailed it and I don’t know how she did it. I have so many things to say and I know that I’ll forget over half of them. Where to start, where to start…
First of all, you know me – you know that I absolutely, without fail LOVE male point-of-view books, particularly contemporary YA. I tend to really feel for these boys, particularly the broken ones, and MAN did Evan fit this mold. YES, he was a bit of a scumbag for the way he handled himself with girls, but you know what? I never really started out hating this character, which is really odd, don’t you think? I mean, he is EVERYTHING WE ARE SUPPOSED TO FIND UNLIKABLE, right? But somehow, I felt compassionate toward him from the beginning. Why is this? It felt a little odd but I’m only being honest. Perhaps it is because he was lacking a great relationship with his parents? His mother no longer living, his father placed him in boarding schools because of the amount of traveling required for his job. It’s true that his father called often to check in with him and to check on him, and to make sure that his needs were met, but in truth – how close can you be with your parent with you are in a constant state of upheaval, moving around the country and always in a live-in boarding school? To me, it was evident that Evan was looking for some kind of relationship in his many broken hook-ups with these girls, and he just wasn’t finding it. To top it all off, Evan was basically friendless – I mean, he had his roommate Patrick, but we see how well that turned out, don’t we? Patrick beat the ever-living crap out of him and left him on the floor of a bathroom because he messed with his ex-girlfriend, whom he affectionately called “firecrotch.” Patrick is NOT really friend material. So, yeah, I felt compassion for Evan.
This surprised me, but I went with it. And I think it played out well for me. Because…
…it served well once Evan made it to Minnesota. That boy felt so lost after what happened to him. He felt so many things, actually. Talk about violated? And the irony of that feeling, right? After Evan’s behavior toward girls is really just violation, to be honest.
ALSO. Again, I say you know me, and you know how much I love character growth and development because I throw it at you all the time. Well, Evan had it. In the beginning, Evan was a boy that hated himself and acted on it in a very (what I consider) stereotypical and teenage-boy way (it’s true that not all teen boys act this way, so no hate-comments, okay?). My point here is that over the course of the book, Evan has a remarkable change in his perspective on life, on relationships, on himself, on basically everything. Interestingly enough, by the end of the book I still think he has plenty to work on but the growth is so remarkable that you can’t argue that he is a changed guy.
Part of his growth is due to therapy, sure. Part of his growth is due to spending time with his father and uncle, sure. Part of his growth is due to learning how to form relationships with people, sure. But it would be awful to leave out THE GIRL. While romance isn’t the big issue in this book, part of Evan’s growth is also due to Baker, the girl next door. The actual girl next door. Evan learns how to relate to girls in a normal way, a healthy way, and it’s SO GREAT. There are some scenes that made me feel like “OH MY HEART.”
Gosh, there is so much in here worth talking about: there is a whole “Summer of Last Chances” story line that Evan takes on with his new friends and is so, so neat and lovely, there is the realization that Evan has of what a normal and healthy sexual relationship is and how he wishes for it, there is Evan learning to defend himself, there is ALSO Evan never really completely losing that part of himself that was there in the beginning (which I think is fantastic because I hope he holds on to it enough that he never reverts back to it), and there are a million other discussion-worthy THINGS.
Also noteworthy? This male POV is completely believable, never cheesy, and written by a female debut author. WHAT? I KNOW. It’s really fantastic. It’s witty and snarky (which, if you follow @CarrieMesrobian
on twitter, is very true to her own voice WHICH I LOVED). And it’s pretty scary to think that there are guys out there like this – not only because HELLO they are doing things like this with girls! but also because they need help. ALSO, there are guys out there like Patrick and Tate, and I’m not sure which of these guys is scarier.
I highly recommend Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian to fans of YA Contemporary with Realistic Fiction and Issues, those who love male points-of-view, those that really love character growth, and those that love standalones. I absolutely loved this book. I realize that the cover and title may be off-putting for some readers, but I ask you not to worry about that and just pick it up and read it if this sounds like something you may be interested in. It’s a fantastic character study into a very realistic part of the population because we all know people like Evan exist. I will most assuredly re-read this one. I will discuss this one with others that have read it. And I will be watching and waiting for Carrie Mesrobian’s next book.
I love it when an author isn’t afraid to push the envelope, try new things, or say what needs to be said. This is certainly the case with this book. This is a risky story and reminds me a little bit of this debut YA Contemporary book
– not because of content but because these authors get in there and write these stories and own them. Some readers will read a scene or two and draw up in themselves, but isn’t that what is really wonderful about YA Contemporary? That it makes us uncomfortable and want to talk about these issues? What about when young people read it? What about if it ends up in the hands of someone like Evan or Collette or Patrick “The Rammer” Ramsey?
Well played, Carrie Mesrobian.
Sex & Violence will appeal to fans of:
YA Contemporary with Realistic Fiction/Issues
Fantastic characterization with
great secondary cast
Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
is currently available for purchase.
I’ve worked as a teacher in both public and private schools; my writing has appeared in the StarTribune, Brain, Child magazine, Calyx, and other web and print publications. I teach teenagers about writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. However, the best job I ever had was when I worked in a thrift store pawing through donations of cast-off junk. Loved that job so much.
My debut YA novel is Sex & Violence, published by Carolrhoda LAB. I have another book coming out next October (2014), again with Carolrhoda LAB. I live with Adrian, my husband, Matilda, my daughter, and Pablo, my dog/publicity manager.
Do you tend to like male POV books?
I LOVE THEM.
I think you should consider adding this one to
your to-read list! It’s fantastic and
(It was also blurbed by Trish Doller, who loved it.)