Review: Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian

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

Review: Cut Both Ways by Carrie MesrobianCut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian
Published by HarperCollins on September 1, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository

Will Caynes never has been good with girls. At seventeen, he’s still waiting for his first kiss. He’s certainly not expecting it to happen in a drunken make-out session with his best friend, Angus. But it does and now Will’s conflicted—he knows he likes girls, but he didn’t exactly hate kissing a guy.

Then Will meets Brandy, a cute and easy-to-talk-to sophomore. He’s totally into her too—which proves, for sure, that he’s not gay. So why does he keep hooking up with Angus on the sly?

Will knows he can’t keep seeing both of them, but besides his new job in a diner, being with Brandy and Angus are the best parts of his whole messed-up life. His divorced parents just complicate everything. His father, after many half-baked business ventures and endless house renovations, has started drinking again. And his mom is no help—unless loading him up with a bunch of stuff he doesn’t need plus sticking him with his twin half-sisters counts as parenting. He’s been bouncing between both of them for years, and neither one feels like home.

Deciding who to love, who to choose, where to live. Whichever way Will goes, someone will get hurt. Himself, probably the most.

The advance reviews for Cut Both Ways have been less than stellar, but I kept my hopes up since I’d liked Mesrobian’s prior novels and BISEXUAL LOVE TRIANGLE YES YES. Well, sadly, I very much see why the early reviews aren’t that great. I was actually feeling pretty 3 star about it, but the more I’ve been thinking about this book, the less I like it. The ending was horrible and, with the time I’ve had to think about it, I’ve just gotten angrier and angrier about how this book turned out. The following will be a rant with spoilers, if you can even call spoiling this particular ending spoiling.

gif be quiet tiffany tyra antm

What Cut Both Ways does very very right is horniness. Mesrobian never shies away from anything, and the horniness of the MC is always right in your face, which personally I love. I mean, I know that I was thinking about sex a lot as a teen, even though I wasn’t having it. Also, there are a lot of sexual acts in this book. A lot a lot. I’m thrilled that there are guy on guy hook ups without any of that fade to black shit too. Will’s bisexuality was what interested me and what made me care; I hurt for this confused boy who doesn’t even know bisexuality is a thing.  Everyone else I know who has read this book was bored, but I actually wasn’t and read it pretty quickly, and still it all went to shit.

However, it really annoys me that he never realizes that there isn’t just gay or straight, because what’s the point then? How will this book help kids confused like Will is? Yes, I know that Will is in the phase of questioning. He might not even BE bisexual. It could be that Angus is an exception. The problem is that there’s no discussion of any type of sexuality outside of being straight or gay. Even if you decide a label doesn’t work for you, you’d likely consider it and WHY it didn’t work for you. It’s hugely problematic for a book about a character attracted to people of both genders to not recognize the existence of bisexuality or anything outside of straight or gay.

gif when you go to bed take responsibility tyra antm

Outside of his sexuality, though, Will’s lacking in personality. Will doesn’t know what we wants, aside from sex. He mostly doesn’t have opinions and he’s looking for more ways to not have to make choices about things. He doesn’t even know his close friends all that well. In general, he’s disconnected. It’s not even like he’s a particularly nice guy, since he’s cheating on his girlfriend through most of the book, though I actually didn’t mind that as much in this scenario, because they’re teens and obviously Will doesn’t have anything figured out. If you’ve read Mesrobian’s prior novels, Will is a lot like them, only there’s literally nothing to him aside from the horniness.

Worse, though, is that, viewed through the flat character that is Will, everything is flat. He thinks more lovingly of looking for strawberry ice cream at the diner than he ever does about either of his lovers. Brandy comes across as nothing but needy and desperate, despite her sad back story and interest in photography. Will only cares about her because sex. Angus is supposedly his best friend on top of being a fuckbuddy, but I know even less about Angus, I think.

The thing that kills me, though, because I did really find the book interesting even though I didn’t find Will himself remotely interesting, is how much the ending sort of makes all of that pointless. I kept waiting for Will to grow in some way but he doesn’t. There is no character development at all. For anyone. Will doesn’t even finally dump Brandy so that he can admit his love for Angus, nor does he give up Angus or end things with both. An open ending to the romance would have been fine if he reached some sort of resolution with his parents or himself, but there’s really nothing.

gif rolling your eyes tyra antm

The book ends and he’s in the same place he was when it started, except that he now regularly partakes in sexual acts. The only thing that really happened over the course of the book is that he realized he was into Angus and liked working in a diner. Like, one of the last things that happened is he got sort of kicked out of his mom and stepdad’s house for his naked photos of Angus aaaaand we will never know what happens with that. Let’s just close on his stepfather shouting homophobic things, because that sounds like a really great place to leave off with the “gay” storyline. Open endings can work, but this one does not. Like, yes, life IS open-ended, but Will has been through a lot of shit and it would be normal to change and grow through that. It’s not realistic for him to not change in the slightest. SERIOUSLY THERE IS NO RESOLUTION TO ANYTHING AT ALL EVER, NOT WITH HIS FAMILY, NOT WITH HIS ROMANCE, NOT WITH HIS FUTURE, NOT WITHIN HIMSELF.

gif i'm not a victim i grow and learn tyra antm

Plotless books only work if the characters have a lot of personality. I still maintain I would read a book about two people in an empty room talking, so long as there was voice like whoa, and love it, but, if there’s not plot, there needs to be character development. To me, a successful book needs to resolve something or open up your mind about something or tell a good story or just be entertaining, and Cut Both Ways did none of this. I literally do not know what the point of this is, aside from being penis feels literary award bait. But hey, that’s just me. If you like your novels without plot or character development and DO like a lot of details that are pertinent to nothing for 350 pages, by all means have at it.

If Cut Both Ways were a song, it would be Ben Folds’ Rockin’ the Suburbs, but totally unironic, because, you know, it really is hard being male, middle class, and white. Do I recommend Cut Both Ways? The only reason I’d recommend picking this up would be to skim for the sex scenes. But you’re probably better off just not.

Favorite Quote:

“I don’t think it matters where you go,” I say. “It’s, like, just the scenery changes. You’re still the same you.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif we were all rooting for you antm tyra

4 responses to “Review: Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian”

  1. Totally agree, a million percent. The ending infuriated me and Will’s LITERAL CONSTANT thoughts of sex really got on my nerves. I mean, you’re having a serious conversation with your girlfriend about some messed up family situations and you can’t stop thinking about sex instead? What kind of relationship is that? I just don’t get it. I appreciate the overall message of the book in the sense that some people genuinely don’t realize that bisexuality is a thing, but there’s noooo closure at all. Will was so flat and boring and just WAY more sex-crazed than most. I mean, I LOVE reading books that don’t shy away from those scenes, but there’s a time and place for everything, Will, good lord.
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  2. Oooooouch. This book sounds painful. Like September Girls levels of painful. And if this one gets acclaim and awards as well I will forever be puzzled, because wut. If you don’t have plot or character growth or voice, just what even is the point? o_O I’m impressed you managed to get through all of it, though I can understand you waiting for the change/growth to come all the way until you were already done with the book.

    Sad sad. It seems our hopes and dreams for a (good) bisexual love triangle book are still a long way off.
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  3. I get that Mesbrobian’s thing is writing YA about guys/their experience and those novels have value just like girl-centric YA novels, but at the same time, ewwwwww books about middle-class white boys. Boring. My experience with Perfectly Good White Boy was enough for me, I think. Most of the White Boy books I read are horrible for me anyway, so I think I’m better off avoiding this. Will sounds like Sean except bisexual and I didn’t think Sean had any personality in the first place.

    AG AG AG. This sounds like a book to hit with the Queer Pan (because some people/books can’t see anything beyond het/gay/lesbian and the existence of pansexuality makes hitting offenders with a frying pan positively puntastic and I think I’m just being weird). There’s another book I remember having the same problem. The Cutting Room Floor by Dawn Klehr, I think? Labels no longer matter once you’re sure about yourself, but when you have no fucking clue, LABELS ARE SUPER HELPFUL.

    Also, I can see your America’s Next Top Model obsession.

  4. Lyn Kaye says:

    The early reviews of this novel have me riled up. What was the point of the bisexual three way if there is nothing to help the reader grow and learn? It pisses me off that this was exploited and just left the reader to sort out the pieces later. It seriously sounds like the author just wanted to write the three way relationship to be EDGY while giving little to no acknowledgement to the teens who live this every day.

    It makes me sick.
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