Initial reaction: Yeah, I’ll have to think about this one. Evan’s account and voice was very good, I definitely appreciated the story on many levels as to how it pulled me into the narrative and didn’t let go. I did have a few issues with it, but overall, I really liked this first read from Carrie Mesrobian.
Beautifully written and compelling novel in Carrie Mesrobian’s “Sex & Violence” – I would personally put this among my favorites for its subject matter alongside Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Twisted” and Alex Finn’s “Breathing Underwater.” The reason I evoke comparisons to those two novels is that this book takes on some very tough issues from the perspective of a young male narrator, and does so very well in a way that feels realistic. It’s not without caveats, but I found it hard to put this book down, if for the fact that Evan’s voice pulled me into his respective thoughts and conflicts.
Evan’s a 17-18 year old boy who has a hard time settling down in his life. His father moves them to so many places, making him have a hard time forming relationships and any kind of significant attachments. Particularly, this factor is mirrored in his sexual relationships with girls as well, until the day he’s brutally beaten while in the showers.
His father moves them from North Carolina to Pearl Lake, Minnesota for the summer. Evan has to heal in more ways than one, from getting a therapist to navigating his relationships along with the people he meets, to wrestling his own internal demons and learning to define himself individually as well as sexually. This book has quite a few slower/quiet paced moments – but it vets the character’s mentality and struggles very well. Evan has body issues, sex issues, insecurities about his being that I think resonate well for one his age. There’s quite a bit of exploration on teen sexuality, drug use, among other things in this narrative that don’t pull punches. While Evan isn’t always the most likable character, the way he evolves over time and the way the narrative unravels his insecurities and pains really got to me. His relationship with Colette is defined from the beginning of the novel (he writes her unaddressed letters on the part of a therapeutic intervention), but his ultimate relationships with Blake, Layne, his father, uncle, among others color the novel very well.
I wouldn’t call “Sex and Violence” a romance at all, but more of a grief/tough subject/coming of age story. There are times when it’s very humorous (in a dark way – Evan has quite a few one-liners that made me chuckle through the narrative). Even as I mention it held my attention – I did notice the pacing was more sluggish in certain areas of the narrative than it should’ve been. It didn’t prevent me from seeing how well thought out this narrative was in addressing the themes that it did, and from appreciating how Evan progresses from his PTSD to moving forward with his life and learning from his past and present terms. I’d certainly recommend it for its audience and beyond for what it brings to the table, especially in progressive conversations about its themes.
Overall score: 4/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.