Rummanah Aasi
  Carrie Mesrobian's debut novel and Morris Award Nominee, Sex and Violence, is not a book that will suit everyone's tastes. Crass, crude, yet an accurate portrayal of language of teens coupled with a balance of harsh moments and sensitive character transformations make Sex and Violence a very interesting book to discuss with mature teens and adults, but I would not be surprised to see this title grace the list of books for Banned Book Week.

Description: Sex has always come without consequences for seventeen-year-old Evan. Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time. After an assault that leaves Evan scarred inside and out, he and his father retreat to the family cabin in rural Minnesota—which, ironically, turns out to be the one place where Evan can't escape other people. Including himself. It may also offer him his best shot at making sense of his life again.

Review: Evan has been the perpetual new guy for far too long. He relocates constantly with his unsettled, non-communicative widower father, hence never making any real friends or lasting connections. Evan, however, he has no problem scoping out "easy girls" to add to his growing and alarming list of conquests in whatever town they happen to land.
  At his last school, a boarding school in North Carolina while his father is working overseas, Evan hooks up with the wrong girl, a schoolmate Collette who comes on to him faster than you can say her full  name, which leads to two dangerous and violent encounters: Evan severely beaten outside the group showers by two stereotypical big jocks and Collette viciously rape by the same boys. Although Evan's badly scarred body heals, needless to say that his wounded spirit struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. He completely alters his looks by avoiding the shower at all costs, avoid looking at man who have strong physiques, cutting his hair completely short, and dramatically decrease his flirtatious behavior.
    In an effort to become a good parent, his father moves them to the family's lake house in rural Minnesota and enlists a helpful therapist. Evan slowly works through his fears and awkwardness to gradually connect with a whole new cast of teens who offer friendship, partying, sexual, and even romantic potential; gets a job and a car; and slowly begins to resolve his feelings about the assault against him and Collette by writing therapy-prescribed unmailed letters to her.
  Evan is a very hard character to like, especially in the callous ways he sizes up, uses, and disposes females. His viewpoints of women are disgusting. I wouldn't want to be in the same building as him but I also couldn't help but see how wry and intelligent he is. He knows he is first class jerk (that's an understatement) and he doesn't hide it. It's a fact. To Evan women are seen as trophies to showcase his masculinity and victories, but these are the themes that Mesrobian expertly weaves into the story without being heavy-handed. Stripped from a mother's love and only shown affection and intimacy through sex, Evan is not sure what it is to be a man and above all what it means to be loved.
   Evan's character growth seemed realistic to me. While he was persistent in his negative behavior and once again found himself in trouble, he does finally have an epiphany and might finally learn a genuine lesson. He even develops a somewhat healthy relationship which I wished was a bit more fleshed out but I think it does give readers some comfort in knowing things are bright in Evan's future. Though readers may have a low tolerance for Evan initially, after witnessing his horrifying ordeal he transforms into someone with and for whom readers will eventually sympathize, want to shake into sensibility, and feel hope. Evan is a character that is unlike anyone that I've met in 2013 and very unlikely to forget.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language, violence (Evan's assault and Collette's rape happen off the page though we are given vivid flashbacks), sexual content and teen drug usage throughout the book. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt, Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
7 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I have a feeling I'm going to want to throttle Evan a few times while reading this Rummanah! I love that we get to see some growth from him, but I'm glad too that he's not all of a sudden this changed man, that it's a definite journey in this book. I'm not entirely sure this is the book for me, but I'm definitely curious, and usually my curiosity gets the best of me. Lovely review as always!

  2. Great review. I thought Evan's voice was authentic. I wished for a bit more resolution at the end. A really different book, but I liked it. Like you said, not for everyone.

  3. Huh. I usually avoid contemporary, and especially issue books, but perhaps an obnoxious character like Evan is my way around that. I guess I could take this journey with him precisely because there's nothing about him to like at first.
    Not sure yet, but you made this sound very interesting.
    Lovely review!

  4. I recall seeing a review for this. It sounds like a book with tremendous character growth and attention to an important topic. I am not sure it is for me though as I am trying to avoid drama and angst these days.

  5. Oh I can see me wanting to kick his arse, but I'm so happy there is character growth. If there wasn't there would be no way I would even consider reading it. Might have to think on this one, but I am now curious. :)

  6. Anonymous Says:

    It's always hard to turn the tide when I intensely dislike a character, and I look forward to seeing if my feelings on Evan will turn around as I read this. It seems like such a thought-provoking read, I can't wait to get to it. Lovely review!

  7. Candace Says:

    I've heard a lot of rave things about this book. The title kind of turns me off but it seems to be a pretty solid read. I may have to pick up a copy from the library!

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