Review: Sex & Violence

Review: Sex & Violence

I received this book for free from Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Sex & ViolenceSex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
Published by Carolrhoda Lab on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blog Tour
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

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.

Though I like to flatter myself that I’m a brave reader, one willing to step outside her comfort zone and try new things, often I don’t. If you look through my very favorite books, most of them share an introverted, sassy, strong-minded heroine. These are the characters I understand best: the misfits, the nerds, the hermit-inclined, the sarcastic. Sex & Violence is about someone who is almost entirely the opposite of me, but done so well that I can actually dig up sympathy for this person so wholly unlike me.

Evan’s mom died when he was young, leaving him with his nerd father, who moved them all around the country for his work. The combination of the constant moving and his father’s emotional distance resulted in Evan’s lack of desire for any sort of emotional attachment to others. He searches out an endless string of a certain type of girl, the kind who will have sex with him quickly and without fuss. He avoids friendships with men and women alike, deleting people’s numbers from his phone when he’s done with them.

Evan’s attractive, in a lean runner sort of way, and getting girls has always come easily to him, from the time he was fifteen. He’s already had a lot of sexual partners, and he both takes pride in this and shames himself for it. The way that he thinks about himself and about women and even about other guys is infuriating and so completely sad. Evan seems to sense that there’s something wrong with him, but he doesn’t want to deal with it. Sex is easy; relationships are hard, messy and doomed to end when his father moves them again. When Evan meets people, he immediately classifies them: dumb jock, secretly gay, slutty, too much work, nerd. Based on these first impressions, he writes people off or determines just how far he’ll let them into his life.

Everything changes for him when two assholes attack him as he’s getting out of the shower. He fooled around with the wrong girl and they were going to make him pay. Both Evan and the girl, Colette, ended up in the hospital. The doctors had to remove Evan’s ruptured spleen, fix his broken nose, and mend a number of other breaks and bruises. His dad moves them to Marchant Falls, where Evan’s dad grew up.

At first, Evan hates it there, just like he hates being anywhere, only more because he’s now terrified of being attracted to girls, large guys, and bathrooms without door locks. His dad makes him go to counseling, which he’s a surprisingly good sport about, even if he does keep a lot to himself. Shocking himself, Evan even makes friends, though he does make rather a mess of it several times. Throughout Sex & Violence, Evan writes letters to Collete that he doesn’t plan to send, explaining, apologizing and trying to deal. As his mental state slowly improves, the letters become more infrequent. These served as a nice way to track Evan’s progress.

Settled in one place all summer, affected by the magic of the lake and the small town determination to befriend him, Evan opens up. He spends time with the local teens, reluctantly at first, but then because he really wants to be with them. For the first time, he sticks around with someone long enough to see below his prejudiced view of them from that first meeting. The dumb jock might be a bit of an asshole, but he’s also not a terrible guy. The girl he thought was a slut is waiting for marriage. The girl he pegged as a prude loves sex and is very open about that. Over the summer, Evan learns that there’s more to others and, in so doing, figures out that there’s more to him than Dirtbag Evan.

In a lot of ways, Sex & Violence really enraged me. As Evan says over and over, he’s a dirtbag. His reflections on people are facile and insulting. At the same time, he’s also clearly broken up inside, and, for all his flaws, he never had sex with a girl under false pretenses. Nothing he did merited a beat-down by some jealous ex-boyfriend with shit for brains. The language in Sex & Violence will likely bother a lot of readers, and I get it, but it also reads as authentically male and unflinchingly honest. Mesrobian did a brilliant job of writing a gender not her own.

What I love best about Sex & Violence is how insecure Evan really is right under the surface. So often male narration avoids discussion of feelings or self-doubt, when those are definitely things that boys think about, much as pop culture would like to pretend otherwise. Evan worries about his appearance quite a bit, particularly how his ears stick out now that he’s cutting his hair so short. I also love the healthy attitude toward counseling shown in Sex & Violence. There’s still a stigma in our culture about seeing a psychiatrist, which I think is absurd. If we all had the time and the money, I think everyone should talk to a shrink, even the shrinks. Oh, and Sex & Violence is very sex positive, with a focus on having sex mindfully when you’re ready for it. Even better, Mesrobian shows that girls have sex drives too. Hurrah!

If you’re wondering whether Sex & Violence is something you would enjoy, consider the title. The main subject matter does revolve around those two things, with plenty of profanity and fairly graphic scenarios. If you’re okay with that, I highly recommend Sex & Violence, which brings a rare male POV to subjects of sexual activity, rape and abuse.

Favorite Quote:

Clearly, relationships were a big ball of insanity.


About Carrie Mesrobian:
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.

Find her on her: Website, Blog, Twitter, Tumblr & Goodreads

To follow the rest of the tour, visit the kick-off post at The Flyleaf Review!

25 responses to “Review: Sex & Violence”

  1. I’m really glad that this book resonated with you, Christina. I was also impressed with how well Carrie wrote from a male pov. S&V is very different from some off the other contemporary “issues” books out there–Evan is a very different main character. But like you I really enjoyed watching his personal growth and admired how Carrie was able to take such smarmy, messed up guy and redeem him over the course of the book.

    Thanks for participating in this tour:)
    Heather@The Flyleaf Review recently posted…Waiting On…Life By Committee by Corey Ann HayduMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      During the TTT about turn-offs, I remember that I found one where the person said they hated cross gender narration because no one can pull it off. I would like to throw this book at their head, along with a slew of others.

      Evan and I have a very complex relationship. If I met him in person, I would definitely loathe him, but being in his head, and getting to see why he is the way he is makes it hard to dismiss him that way. There’s so much going on underneath the covers to explain why he turned out so distant.

  2. kristin says:

    This isn’t something I would normally read either but it does sound good. It’s not too often that books are from the guys perspective. I will have to add it to my list.
    Kristin @ Book Sniffers Anonymous
    kristin recently posted…Review: Neo’s New Home by D.T. DyllinMy Profile

  3. I like to branch out sometimes, because there are definitely characters I prefer like you (the same kind of characters you’ve mentioned). This book sounds interesting. I’m happy that she could write a good male POV 🙂
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Fairytale News 20. Embarrassing books?My Profile

  4. Ohhh male POV? How do I not know about this book?! Evan sounds like just my kind of character, definitely going to check this one out!
    Kat (AussieZombie) recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Sequels I Can’t Wait To Get My Hands OnMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Seems like Lerner didn’t do much promotion for it. Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sure if I’ve seen Lerner do any promotion, aside from taking books to conferences and dumping them on NetGalley. There’s not generally much hype for their books. I suspect that’s why a tour is happening a month after release and it’s a blogger friend of the author running it.

  5. Tammy says:

    I put this on hold at my library. I didn’t know much about it but am in love with the cover. Looking forward to reading it after your review.

  6. Jenni says:

    This book needs to be in my life, I might just put down what I am reading right now and start it tonight. I just have to see what all the fuss was about. I know how you feel about authors authentically writing the opposite genre so it is great to see that you praised it so much here. Great review, lady friend!
    Jenni recently posted…The F- It List ReviewMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      You have such a weird relationship with WordPress. I really don’t know how you always manage to post duplicate comments, since it always yells at me if I press Submit twice and blocks the second one. What an odd superpower you have.

      And, yes, you better read it. Such a Jenni book. Although with all the fuss, you might end up hating it. X_X

  7. This is the third review I’ve read for this book and you really sold me on it. I read Kara’s first, then Wendy’s, but yours was so much more in depth that I was really able to see the book through your eyes.

    Very in depth review, Christina. I appreciated it very much. (I almost didn’t want it to end. lol)
    Lisa (Fic Talk) recently posted…Comment on Blog Tour & Review: Greed by Fisher Amelie by JennaMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Now THAT’S a compliment, because I know how good Kara’s and Wendy’s reviews are, though I’ve not read these particular ones yet, since I’m running way behind on commenting. Whoops.

      I was pretty proud of this particular review though, so I’m glad you liked it!

  8. Wow, this was a really well-thought out review! I had this out from the library but had to return it…I hope I can fit it in soon. The title makes it a must-read for me, although I’d be kind of wary to read it in public. Maybe I should get the kindle version!
    Stephanie Parent recently posted…Cover Reveal: Stone of Destiny by Laura HowardMy Profile

  9. […] A Reader of Fictions – Christina’s review […]

  10. So weird that I was supposed to be a part of this blog tour–the author even emailed me–but I never heard anything back once I received the book. She was supposed to write me a guest post on male narrators. Huh.

    At any rate, I loved this book, and I agree, it was totally not something I would normally choose to read but the blurb spoke to me. I am glad I did take the leap because I loved this book. The writing and characterizations were superb.
    Kara @ Great Imaginations recently posted…Book Review of All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle ZevinMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      That is super strange. O_o

      I’m glad you liked it, too, though. I wasn’t sure if you would, because his language and stuff is super upsetting. But she just did a beautiful job with the perspective, and the lessons are great.

      • I emailed her and she forgot to CC me in the blog tour email. She apologized and was super sweet about it and she’s writing me the guest post anyway. SO it’s fine.

        No, I loved this book, and I am okay with upsetting material if it’s handled well. The only issue I had in this one was the homophobic language toward the beginning that I feel didn’t add to the story, nor would it have taken away from the story if it was left out. Other than that, I loved it.
        Kara @ Great Imaginations recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #65My Profile

        • Christina Franke says:

          Oops, planning things is hard. It’s awesome that you guys were able to work it out.

          Yeah, the language was upsetting, but there are guys that do talk like that. I’ve heard them. So I think she was going for the realism even if it’s frustrating.

          • I know. But I still think it’s problematic in a book. And I don’t think it would have taken away from the realism at all to not include it.
            Kara @ Great Imaginations recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #65My Profile

            • Christina Franke says:

              At least the MC judged them for it and didn’t participate in it? There wasn’t a romanticization of the dudebros.

              • I think he might have said something once, but I don’t remember for sure. But you are right. It could have been much worse, which is why I only remarked on it. I’ve ranted in a review over problematic content for much longer before. 😀

                • Christina Franke says:

                  I remember him saying something early on about how there are three reasons guys do that, and one of them was secretly being gay. Don’t remember the other two. He was definitely judgmental of it. But he never actively spoke out, unfortunately.

  11. Apparently I can’t reply anymore, haha. But anyway, yeah, that comment was the one I was referring to. And then in the end, he makes all these changes and I love his character but for that one little thing. Remembering how judgmental he was in the beginning, I Just couldn’t fully wrap my head around him as a character.
    Kara @ Great Imaginations recently posted…Book Review: Altered by Gennifer AlbinMy Profile

  12. Ellis says:

    WANT. I actually really do. I’m pushing myself to read more through the POVs of unlikeable characters. I’m always intrigued to see how the overall narrative distances itself from anything assholish a character might say/do. I like that therapy is not the big evil here that it’s so often made out to be. I think it will be really interesting to see how Evan deals with his trauma. So, yes, WANT.
    Ellis recently posted…Rewind Review – Every Which WayMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge