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.
You saw the title, you read the description, and now you want to know what I think about Sex & Violence. In fact, you are probably still thinking over the title. Why would debut author Carrie Mesrobian name her novel Sex & Violence? I mean, she couldn’t think of anything else? The Fault In Our Stars isn’t titled “Cancer and Love.” The Hunger Games isn’t titled “Rebellion and Class Oppression.” Harry Potter isn’t titled “Boy Wizard and Evil Dude.” And you’re right. Most novels do not blatantly title themselves based after what the novel is about. When I first started reading the book I thought the same exact thing. But by the end of the novel, I liked the title. I loved the title. I couldn’t imagine a different one. It is a brave title and it is an honest title and it properly represents what this novel is: a brave and honest tale of a teenage boy’s perception of both sex and violence.
The book revolves around a character who I think is underrepresented in literature and that is the character of a jerk. Wait? A jerk? Psshhh, there are enough jerk characters in the literary world. And I know there are. There are plenty. There is usually some jerk character in almost any coming-of-age story who either beats up our hero, or uses our hero in one way or another. That jerk character is usually an antagonist. Or maybe a bad person who turns good. Well, in Sex & Violence, that is not the case. That is not to say that Evan Carter is a one- dimensional character, because he is not. He can be considered a dislikable character to some (although definitely not by me), but being dislikable does not make your character uninteresting. In fact, it does the opposite. There are some readers, and I really hope you’re not one of them, who may or may not put a book down just because the character is dislikable (with no other factor). Characters are like people. Sometimes, you’re not always going to meet people you can stand, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they feel pain and happiness and suffering just like you. And you know what? People change, and so do characters. Evan Carter is the kind of guy who will sleep with a girl and then disappear from her life forever. It’s not until he hooks up with the wrong girl at the wrong place at the wrong time, does he begin to see the consequences of both sex and violence and how they are now co-existing in his life.
Does Evan have moments of change in the novel? Absolutely, like any good character should. This book has some of the best character development I’ve ever read, so in the sake of no spoilers, I won’t discuss Evan’s transformation. Instead I’ll discuss a few characters.
First, there’s Colette, the girl who changed it all. At first, Colette felt like a pawn in the novel. Someone that just made the plot begin, but then you start to see how Colette so deeply impacts the novel. Personally, I think Colette needs her own novel. A companion novel. Hint, hint, Ms. Mesrobian. Colette doesn’t need a companion because she wasn’t drawn well enough in Sex & Violence; she needs one because I would love her side of the story. There isn’t much to say about Colette, but yet, there is so much. I don’t want to spoil anything though, so I’ll keep it at that.
Another character is Baker. Oh, how I love thee Baker. One of the most interesting characters in YA. Along with Evan, of course. When I first read Sex & Violence, Baker came off as equally annoying and interesting, but when reading it the second time, I began to love her. Baker is a very strong female protagonist, but she’s also very weak. She gives into the ideas of being treated with a bit less respect than she should. She breaks her own rules of feminism. All of which makes Evan’s head spin. Now this isn’t a love story, and if it were, it’d be an awful love story. But the chemistry and backlash she has with Evan is almost too good to pass up–even for him. Baker teaches Evan that girls are not one-dimensional characters. They don’t come with a certain set of characteristics, even if society may drawn females that way. Honestly, Baker teaches Evan that girls are human, and not that Evan is a full misogynistic bastard, but he struggles with realizing that girls are more than a set of body parts. He struggles having actual conversations with them. He is intimately present when he wants to, but emotionally, not so much. Baker makes Evan change. And I don’t mean an Alaska Young type of change. Evan isn’t in love with Baker. Evan can barely see a girl after having sex with her. Being in love? Not a chance. Like I said, this isn’t a love story. But something even better happens to Evan and Baker, a friendship comes about, and you begin to realize how lonely Evan really is. Baker becomes one of his first friends ever. As well as many other characters do quite distantly, but the type of emotional impact it has on our protagonist, well–it’s immense. Evan Carter is a very introverted character, even to his readers, but you see him begin to shift with one of the best YA character developments ever.
Seriously, by the end of the novel I was crying my eyes out wishing I could give Evan Carter a hug. Just thinking about it makes me emotional. Seriously, I am a mess because of this book. It’s made me think so much. About the definitions and roles of masculinity, the idea of being a “slut,” the ideas behind feminism, etc. It’s made me THINK, A LOT. The sociology nerd within me jumps up and down when thinking about this book. So even though you know this book might be out of your comfort zone, pick it up anyway. Aren’t novels supposed to provoke us? Well, get ready to be provoked. This book wasn’t a Morris Award finalist for nothing.