Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sex & Violence, by Carrie Mesrobian



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:

On Tumblr
At her blog

25 comments:

Elise Fallson said...

Sounds like an amazing read that I think a lot of us can relate to in some form or fashion. Thanks for sharing, I'll be looking into this one.

SA Larsenッ said...

WOW! Just wow! I have to get this. It sounds amazing, and I love the cover!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

So I take it you liked the book just a little? lol

I've never read such a passion-felt review before. :D

Em-Musing said...

Great review, and I think the content is just what kids nowadays can sink there teeth into...no violence intended.

mshatch said...

After reading your review I have only one complaint; the bloody book doesn't come out until October!!!

That said I know how you feel about great books inspiring. I felt the same way after reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Night Circus.

LTM said...

Wow! That's some review! I'll be looking forward to this one blowing up everywhere! :D LOL!

Sounds awesome. Thanks, Matt~ <3

farawayeyes said...

Yeah, I'm pretty much with everyone else...bummed out to have to wait until October. Sounds amazing. Excellent review.

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

Okay, I'm totally reading this book. Finally someone that has the cajones to write about real stuff instead of all that sexless YA romance stuff.

Katy Upperman said...

Wow, Matt... I hadn't even heard of this book, but it sounds fantastic. The title is so in-your-face, and I can never resist a super-authentic teen voice. I'll definitely make a note of this one. Thank you for recommending it!

Nancy Thompson said...

You really make her story come alive. I love your passion about this book. Definitely makes me want to read it.

Andrew Leon said...

Actually, this sounds like a book I wouldn't much like. I'll try to remember to take a look at it, but it doesn't sound like it's for me.

Vanessa Morgan said...

ok, you got me hooked :)

Jemi Fraser said...

October? After that review???? *sigh* I'm not going to be very patient. This sounds like a must read to me! Thanks for the tip ... even if I do have to wait!

maine character said...

If I was Carrie, I'd be reading this and thinking, Damn, this should've been the jacket copy!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

This has got to be the most convincing endorsement of any book I've ever read. I'm sold.

Joe Lunievicz said...

I'm putting it on my list.

Tara Tyler said...

holy crap! and now we have to wait until oct?! thanks.
marking my calendar.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Man!!! I CANNOT WAIT to pick this up!
And, i mean, you know my love for books that are set in MN, but outside of that, this sounds right up my alley

JeffO said...

I'm not a big reader of YA at this point, but this sounds really interesting. It sounds like a YA book that's not a YA book, if you know what I mean. Or an adult book that's a YA book.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Quite an edgy sounding book. I love edgy and I love teen male protagonists. I'll have to take a look.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Dang, Matt. You sold me. You know I value your opinion when it comes to books, but even this blew me away. And now I have to wait until October?? Thanks. Sheesh.

Cherie Reich said...

Oh, wow! This book sounds awesome. I'll have to add it to my to-read list.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

It sounds like a grabber! I think what makes books like this so awesome is their honesty. As a writer who tends to hold the cards a little close (to avoid that, sooo how much of this is real to your life?)...I am thoroughly impressed with writers who have the gonads to "go there". And it always, always makes a compelling read.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Dang it, Matt. I just brought up Barnes & Noble. Only problem is I can't actually receive it this week. Damn you all to hell and back. Geez.

That said, amazing review for what appears to be a transformative sort of novel. Just the sort of book I like to read and write. Looking forward to it. But if it makes me feel like an incompetent writer, I'm blaming you.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Also, I already read this review. And I think I put off ordering it because it's not out yet. But I'll order it now. And then wait. And wait. And wait.

Dang it.