posted at Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 9:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
Published by Carolrhoda Lab on October 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Amazon • The Book Depository
"You never know where we'll end up. There's so much possibility in life, you know?" Hallie said. Sean Norwhalt can read between the lines. He knows Hallie's just dumped him. He was a perfectly good summer boyfriend, but now she's off to college, and he's still got another year to go. Her pep talk about futures and "possibilities" isn't exactly comforting. Sean's pretty sure he's seen his future and its "possibilities," and they all look DISPOSABLE. Like the rental his family moved into when his dad left. Like all the unwanted filthy old clothes he stuffs into the rag baler at his thrift-store job. Like everything good he's ever known. The only hopeful possibilities in Sean's life are the Marine Corps, where no one expected he'd go, and Neecie Albertson, whom he never expected to care about. Carrie Mesrobian follows her critically acclaimed debut, Sex & Violence, with another powerful and wrenching portrait of a teenage boy on the precipice of the new American future.
After reading Carrie Mesrobian’s debut, I was pretty much going to read anything she ever wrote. Sex & Violence manages to be very unique somehow, and I get the same feeling from Perfectly Good White Boy. Mesrobian’s fiction is raw and honest. It’s graphic and doesn’t flinch away from the awkward or ugly stuff. In fact, it’s also a lot about sex and a bit about violence. The subject matter didn’t grip me quite as much, but I’m still left highly impressed with Mesrobian’s sophomore effort.
Once again, Mesrobian excels at writing a male narrative voice. Sean’s voice reads as very authentic. What I think really sells it for me is that, yeah, he’s a bit crude and often thinking about boobs and sex and masturbation, but that’s not all going through his brain. Sometimes authors try to make dude voice just swearing and sports and a step above grunting. Mesrobian doesn’t do that. She’s also so good at making me understand the character, despite being absolutely nothing like either of them, which takes serious talent.
Sean goes to this party during junior year and gets a bloody nose after someone hits him with a frisbee. This turns out to be the best thing to happen to him that year, since the senior girl, Hallie, who threw it felt really bad about it. They fool around that night but also begin to bond emotionally. Sean falls in love with her and he knows she’s going off to college but assumes things will work out somehow. He’s devastated when she dumps him before she leaves. It’s so nice to have fiction show that guys actually often love commitment and that it’s not just girls who get attached.
One of the big themes of the book is sex outside of a relationship, as exhibited both by Neecie and Sean. The two become friends when Sean learns that Neecie’s having a secret affair with a popular hockey player who won’t talk to her in public. Sean is a bit judgmental of this, but cannot resist falling into a similar pattern when Hannah comes back from college for breaks. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with this technically; they’re all consenting and it’s their choice whom to have sex with. However, despite the fact that they’re enjoying the sex, it’s also obvious that these relationships are making both Neecie and Sean feel really bad about themselves. They both want to stop but can’t figure out how to for several reasons. I like this subject matter, because YA really doesn’t get into this stuff too much. It’s considered too racy and graphic for teens and rarely gets published. I think Mesrobian shows, without any telling whatsoever, that a sexual relationship that makes you hate yourself or your partner is not a healthy one, which is no condemnation of sex in general. Plus, there’s definitely an emphasis on having safe sex.
Where I’m less attached to this book is the rest of the plot lines. I don’t really understand the point of everything. I feel like I’m missing the bigger picture somehow. There’s the stuff with deer hunting, including a disgusting scene of preparing one to eat, his family drama, his dog Otis, and, most obviously, Sean signing up for the Marines. The book is purportedly about a guy going into the Marines, but it ends before he gets there. The book even opens with a quote from Fullmetal Jacket. I just don’t really have any feelings about that or understand what it added to the story. That’s probably my failing, but also my experience of it.
Carrie Mesrobian is an author to watch. She writes some of the best male narrative YA and is very open about teen sexuality. If you’ve been wanting YA to stop being so sugarcoated, she’s an author that whose books you need to read.
And I kissed her. I was sorta wasted and not thinking much beyond GRAB SMASH GIRL.
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: