I hate to do this to you all, because this book does not come out until October, but there are certain books you simply have to talk about.
NOTE: This book is gritty, and would at least be rated R, as a film, so this post will be using some colorful language to discuss it.
Sex & Violence, by Carrie Mesrobian, from Carolrhoda Lab, provided to me by Editor Andrew Karre is quite possibly the best Young Adult Novel I have ever read. It's definitely the most memorable.
Evan Carter starts out as just the kind of little bitch whose ass I would have kicked in high school. He's so self-centered, and cares about nothing outside his own pleasure, and his own sexual conquests. He doesn't really spit the best game, but he does have pretty good radar for the kind of girls that say Yes. Basically, he's just the kind of guy who would get your girlfriend drunk and then trick her into having sex with him. A real piece of shit.
Except he isn't, actually. He just thinks he is.
And, reading his story, told from his first person point of view in the most authentic teenage voice I have ever read, I couldn't help but sympathize with him. Especially since he annoyed the hell out of me in the beginning, but by the end, I was pretty much in love with him. A total literary bro crush. The story all begins when Evan does actually get his ass kicked, badly. So badly, in fact, that he has to have his bleeding spleen removed, and there are criminal charges for his tormentors.
But Evan doesn't have to worry about that too much, because his father is a distant, nomadic finance guy, who lets his laptop lead him and his son to a new condo in a new town every six months. Instead, Evan has to worry about how the attack has inextricably linked, both mentally and emotionally, the two most potent kinds of physical contact in the world: Sex & Violence, which of course lands him in therapy.
Personally, I went to six different high schools when I was a kid. For different reasons than Evan, but still, I get him. I know what it feels like to be The Fucking New Guy. I know what it feels like to be so utterly alone in the world that you just don't give a shit about anything, especially yourself. I know what it feels like to mostly hate your father, and to miss your mother, may she rest in peace, so much that you're essentially always, at the very least, Almost-Weepy.
But this book isn't about me. And it isn't the fact that Evan and I have so much in common that makes it so powerful. What does make it so powerful are its characters. Evan Carter. Baker Trieste. Tom. Collette. The Beauchant Brothers. Jordan. Even Jim and Taber. Hell, even Evan's dad.
I don't know that I've ever read more authentic teenagers. They smoke, they skinny dip in the lake outside their cabins, they have sex, they drink Cherry Lick, and they don't really know how or if they fall in love. But they sure as hell know that life is a horrible, incredible, confounding, passionate, apathetic, and ever-changing, constantly cyclical thing, and they live it like there's no tomorrow. They're scared of each other. They're scared of themselves. They're scare of being alone, and they're scared of being together, but they aren't afraid to feel.
Like the ethereal call of the Minnesota lake bird, the Loon, I don't think I can really even put my finger on exactly what it is about this book, these characters, this writing, that is so incredible, but I will say that as a writer, this is one of those books. You know the kind. The ones that when you're maybe a third of the way through, you get really depressed, because you just know you will never write anything this good, but then by the time you're nearly done, you're back to your manuscript after reading every couple chapters, because never before in your life have you been so inspired to write. Because this is what's great about storytelling. When stories take you back to some tragic or triumphant moment in the hazy history of your own life, a moment which made you feel something so intense that you were convinced no one had ever hurt or loved so hard, and suddenly, you realize that you are not alone. That someone else has felt exactly what you have felt, and you are not, despite your better judgment, crazy.
Sex & Violence is Mesrobian's debut novel. It releases in October 2013. Here is the jacket copy:
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.
Carrie teaches teenagers about writing and books at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. You can find her:
At her blog