Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: Sex & Violence

Sex & Violence
By Carrie Mesrobian

Expected publication October 1, 2013 by Carolrhoda Lab

Evan has moved around a lot and with these moves, he's learned a few things. Most specifically, he's learned how to find the girl most likely to say yes. And then, somehow, Evan finds himself with the wrong girl at the wrong time. Now, everything Evan has learned seems wrong. Can he figure out how to heal?

I downloaded this galley because I started hearing some buzz on it, and I always like to keep up with the buzz (although it's basically impossible nowadays, considering how big the buzz machine seems to have gotten). I was intrigued by the book's blurb, though a bit put off by the title (it strikes me as a title intended mostly for titillation and shock value). I don't think the title is wrong for the book - as a matter of fact, it sums up the book quite nicely. I just don't love it.

Regardless of the title, I was eager to start the book. I had high hopes for it - a male POV, dealing with a traumatic event that seems to permanently link sex and violence in his mind. How will he deal with this? How will he recover? Will he ever be able to separate sex and violence again and have a healthy sexual perspective? The plot seemed ripe for exploration of these topics. And I think Mesrobian does a fine job of exploring the links between sex and violence in our society, particularly among young men.

Additionally, I thought Mesrobian did a great job of creating a believable male POV. It is rough sometimes, and shocking, but it feels true. While I wouldn't say I connected with Evan, I wanted to understand him. I wanted him to figure things out and recover from his trauma and figure out what is healthy. Much like the POV, the story and what Evan goes through is often rough and unapologetic and gritty. This book is no lighthearted or fluffy read. It's real - dealing with real issues and real consequences and tough topics. I applaud Mesrobian for refusing to shy away from such difficult topics.

What I like most about this book, I think, is the frankness. Many of Mesrobian's characters enjoy sex and are not ashamed about that or afraid to discuss it. I can't stress this enough: SEXUAL DESIRE AND ENJOYMENT IS NORMAL. The frankness with which Mesrobian tackles the topic is part of what makes this such a realistic read. I know when I was a teen, I spent a good portion of time thinking and talking about sex - who was doing it, who wasn't, who was thinking about it, etc. It's part of being a teenager and growing up.

While I liked a lot of what Mesrobian did here, I was a bit underwhelmed with the surface level writing. I felt the book dragged a bit at times and didn't find anything special with the prose. However, I think this would be a great book for discussion with a teen reading group - there are a lot of layers to unpack from this novel.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.

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