Published by Carolrhoda LAB on October 2013
Genres: Contemporary YA
Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”
Evan is a PLAYER, man. It’s like his personal mission every time he moves, which he and his dad do a lot, to find the chick of least resistance basically and hook up with her — no strings attached and no commitments and then he knows eventually he’ll leave and not have anything to look back for. He’s gotten good at studying and picking out the girls who would also be down for that. When he meets Collette at his latest school he doesn’t realize that his actions could have some pretty awful consequences until they do. After an incident that leaves him with quite a bit of physical and emotional damage, he and his father move to a cabin in a small town in Minnesota to try to put down some roots and deal with what has happened in the past as Evan tries to heal from the damage done on so many levels.
I had no idea what this book was about. I kept seeing it on a lot of Best of 2013 lists last year and my interest was piqued. I mean, the title doesn’t pull any punches there. SEX. VIOLENCE. I was very, very curious. WHAT WOULD THIS BOOK BE ABOUT? I don’t know that it was what I thought it would be but I am glad I read it though there was some sort of disconnect for me that maybe didn’t make rate it as high as many people I know did. It was a strong novel in many ways but lost me as a reader in some areas and I never felt a lasting connection to it after I finished.
1. I really liked Evan’s characterization, his authentic voice and his growth: Evan was a guy that I would NOT want to date probably but I really LOVED him as a character. Carrie Mesrobian gave us a really raw character in Evan. He was a man-whore basically and he thinks and talks about sex, woman and his conquests A LOT. There is no holding back which I loved because it felt authentic — even when it made me want to rage. This is also, I think, how he copes with his strained relationship with his dad and always ending up at new schools. He knows finding a new girl and having sex (with no strings attached) is something he can count on and it’s almost like a game or challenge to him during his time at a school. But then, after this act of violence happens to him because of a girl he was sleeping with, he’s forced to look at everything in his life. He has to deal with the PTSD of the ordeal (which HURT MY HEART TO READ AS IT HAPPENS) and then he and his dad go to a small town and live in a cabin where he starts to heal from it all– on the outside AND the inside. There were so many moments I just wanted to weep for Evan — like with his showering issues– and I just thought Mesrobian did a really good job portraying his struggles and his healing. I loved watching him let people in his life in ways he hadn’t previously.
2. This book was a breath of fresh air: I felt like the voice was different, the plot was super unique and just really….gritty…edgy? I don’t can’t really think of the word I’m looking for but I really appreciated that this felt DIFFERENT for me. I like when a book doesn’t FEEL like anything I’ve ever read before. Evan’s voice is funny yet exudes his pain. There are a lot of great things done really well and some topics explored in a really fresh way — all surrounding one very complex, it’s-easy-to-love-him-and-it-is-easy-to-want-to-punch-him main character.
3. I appreciated the candid conversation about sex: I feel like a lot of times the subject isn’t tackled in the way Sex & Violence tackled it and I loved that we see Evan’s views on sex and women initially and then as the start to adapt. It felt REAL and I appreciated how sex positive this novel was and how the ladies in this novel where NOT ashamed of their sexuality whether it be a more promiscuous approach or a little more prudish. I love that they own it and Evan is forced to confront that and let that interact with this previous sexual encounters with women and his views.
4. The second half to the ending is where it came apart and I felt this disconnect to it: It’s hard to explain WHY this happened when it was such a strong read aside from that. Some new plot threads were introduced in this already hefty story and I didn’t love how some things were left necessarily and I just didn’t feel how I did for the first half. The only way I can think to describe it is like this: You put an outfit together and are looking at it in the mirror. It doesn’t look bad. It looks pretty good. Your friends agree. But you just have this feeling something is missing to pull it altogether and make it WOW. More complete. Is it a belt? A statement necklace? A sweater? Different shoes? You just know that it needs SOMETHING. That’s how I felt about it. It was strong but it needed something to pull it back together for me.
Note: I feel like my rating really just can’t account for how brilliant and complex this book really is. It’s one of the more memorable books I’ve read in a while but, for me personally to rate it higher, I needed to feel something more. So, take that into account because I still highly and sweepingly recommend it.
+ characterization (everything was flawless with Evan and how he was written), how complex & thought-provoking it is, writing,
– the disconnect I had towards the second half of the book…that I can’t explain well.
Re-readability: I actually really kind of want to now after trying to put my thoughts down. It’s such a complex book that maybe a second reading IS necessary?
Would I buy a copy for my collection? Like I always say, I’m beyond picky about what stays on my shelf so probably not but I’d not hesitate to buy a copy for a friend.
People who like really complex novels and characters who are very layered and not always sympathetic, readers who are looking for sex positive YA, readers who like gritty kind of brutal novels, readers who want authentic male POVs, readers who like character driven novels
Sex & Violence is a doozy of a novel — powerful, intense, a breath of fresh air and not a book that you can just read but are FORCED to engage with. I loved Evan’s POV — brutally honest, snarky & full of pain — and I really loved, as painful as it could be at times, watching his growth and arc in the novel. It tackles some tough things with an honest voice and offers up a lot for the reader to digest. On a reading experience level though, my enjoyment/connection to this novel kind of unraveled 3/4 way-ish through and I never regained the kind of level of FEELINGS I had in the first half. But I still think this novel is brilliant if that makes sense?