Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
Mature YA Contemporary/Fiction
E book, 304 pages
October 1, 2013
Reviewed by Tori
Seventeen year old Evan Carter has never considered the consequences of having random sex. From the age of fifteen, Evan has used sex as a way to connect and combat the loneliness of having a father who’s never there and being forced to continuously move. He purposely selects girls who are “not normal.” Girls who will let you sleep with them on the first date. When Evan messes with the wrong girl, he finds himself the victim of violence that results in his father taking him back to his hometown of Pearl Lake, Minnesota. Floundering in a sea of guilt, remorse, sorrow, and fear, Evan finds his way out the darkness and learns to forgive himself.
Carrie Mesrobian’s debut, Sex & Violence, is a thought provoking coming of age story that features a male protagonist placed in a traditional female role as the victim of sexual assault. And make no bones about it, though the attack was not sexually based, it was sexually motivated. Evan was punished for touching something that was thought to belong to someone else. And he pays for it in many ways. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Presented in a no-nonsense conversational style, Evan tells us his story in a dispassionate voice that doesn’t ask for forgiveness or understanding; he merely wants us to listen. Plenty of humor and dry wit helps to balance the severity of the subject matter presented. Mesrobian does a wonderful job narrating Evan’s voice as he deals with the same issues many females face daily. This is especially poignant when heard from a male perspective. Issues concerning his body, looks, attitude, and sexuality.
From the moment Evan and his father arrive at Pearl Lake, both begin a slow yet empowering transformation. Before the attack, Evan was self assured, cocky, and comfortable in his own skin. He felt no guilt over his perceived peccadillos. After the attack, Evan finds himself unable to go forward. He’s angry, frightened, sad, and guilty. Remorse shapes his life with fine edged scalpel. He begins to remember every girl he slept with, wondering if the attack was merely a form of justice for his past behavior. Evan’s father is in no better shape. Absent both physically and emotionally in Evan’s life since his wife passed away, he is fighting his own demons; drowning in guilt over the attack and helpless in how to help Evan heal from it.
Evan and his father begin to make connections between themselves and others. Evan meets various people in this small town who show him that everyone has a complicated history. He’s taught that mistakes are made but you can learn from them and move on. He learns that sometimes the choices we make aren’t the right ones but we are not bad people for making them. And Evan needs these connections these life lessons. Ties that can ground him and help him rebuild what he lost. One strong tie is the letters he writes to Colette, the catalyst that lead to his beating. Writing as a therapeutic measure suggested by his therapist, Evan learns to take responsibility for his actions while learning to let go of the guilt and self recriminations.
What called to me in here was the strength and diversity of the characters. Well rounded and vibrant in their voices, particularly the female characters. We see a kaleidoscope of sexuality from many different viewpoints. A girl who does everything but to a mature woman who is comfortable in her sexuality and the choices she makes. Baker was my favorite character. She represents two firsts for Evan. A romantic interest that he cannot bang and forget and a female friend. I loved Baker’s strength. A curious mixture of sexual empowerment and vulnerability, she herself is at a crossroads but refuses to bend her principles in order to make others happy. She too is attracted to Evan but knows they have no future at this time and tries to avoid any unpleasant encumbrances.
The ending does leave the reader with some questions, but it makes sense as this is Evan’s story. We won’t know what happens until he’s able to face those moments in his life and in actuality, it really doesn’t matter. While I would not call this a romance, I won’t hesitate to say that it is filled with love. Family, friendship, and a small romance towards the end gives readers hope that Evan is well on his way to healing. If you’re looking for something different in YA, then I recommend adding Carrie Mesrobian’s Sex & Violence to your bookshelf of keepers
Overall Rating: B+