Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
Evan had always been the new kid at school, but he found advantages to that. In each new school, he knew just which girls would be the ones to say “yes” and have sex with him. That all changes when he picks the wrong girl at a private school in North Carolina and ends up savagely beaten in a boys’ restroom. Evan’s father, who has been absent physically and emotionally since his mother’s death when he was a child, moves them to a lakeside cabin in Pearl Lake, Minnesota. As his body starts to heal and scars start to form, Evan also has to deal with the damage to his mind. He can no longer take showers because they evoke the same terror as the attack. And even sex is so mixed with guilt and fear that it holds little appeal. Pearl Lake is quiet but also filled with teens who know everything about one another but nothing about Evan, and that’s just the way he likes it. Or is it?
This novel looks deep into what happens psychologically after a physical trauma. Mesrobian handles dark issues with a certain tenderness, yet never shies away from the trauma itself. While details of the attack are shared in snippets throughout the novel, they are not lingered over and sensationalized. This is far more a book about a boy who survives and grows, combined with the agonies of change along the way.
Evan is a wonderfully flawed protagonist. The book begins just before the attack but with a prologue that foreshadows what is going to happen. Evan is entirely detestable at this stage, a boy who screws girls just for fun, feeling little to no connection with them emotionally. He convinces himself he is right about the way he is treating Collette. Then early in the book, the attack comes, and Evan is transformed in a matter of pages into a character worthy of sympathy. This sort of complexity runs throughout the novel which provides no easy answers but lots to think about.
Another great character is Baker. She is a smart senior who is sexually active and even describes herself as sexually aggressive. She and Evan almost immediately form a friendship that deepens over the summer. She stands as one of the most honest and beautifully written teen girls I have read in a long time. I love that she is not scared of expressing her sexuality, that her life doesn’t fall apart because of it, and that she is still feminine, smart and kind. Amazing characterization!
This novel asks tough questions, changes underneath you, demands that you think and never gives concrete answers to the questions it asks. Beautifully written, complex and brilliant. Appropriate for ages 16-18.
Reviewed from library copy.