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Sex & Violence

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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.

After an assault which 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?

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 never really know 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 all annoying as hell. It might also be Evan's best shot to untangle…sex and violence.

298 pages, Paperback

First published August 13, 2013

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Carrie Mesrobian

7 books165 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 399 reviews
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
828 reviews3,676 followers
January 3, 2016
DNF @ 28%. This is my last day of vacations and I’m done trying to care. The first couple of chapters drew me in and I genuinely thought that Sex & Violence would win me because of the raw narrative and the original way sexual issues were handled (I did feel a little uncomfortable with the manner the MC « classed » women, though). However, it was without counting on the snorefest it became and I feel no connection whatsoever with any of these characters.

I’m out of Evan’s head, who, by the way, shouldn’t feel the need to class everything from furniture to purple clothes as being gay. Grow up, kiddo. You're just offensive.
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,521 reviews33.8k followers
November 6, 2013
Fantastic narrative voice, and definitely an author to watch. I'd strongly recommend this book to mature YA readers who seek books that deal with serious subjects in a non-self-pitying way, especially those who appreciate moral ambiguity and realism in their stories.

International Giveaway for an autographed copy of Sex & Violence is here: http://www.themidnightgarden.net/2013...

Review copy provided by the publisher. Full text of the review is on the blog.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
509 reviews301 followers
July 26, 2016
One of the Best Books of the Year

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger Warnings and Some Words about Sex in YA/NA fiction

This book addresses the aftermath of violence and sexual assault, as well as the devastating effects of PTSD. If the mentions of these topics are a potential issue for you I would caution you, but I wouldn’t discourage you from reading.

In fact, I feel this book should be on high school reading lists. It is one of the most honest and realistic depictions of teen sex (both positive and negative) I’ve read in a long time. When popular culture and young adult fiction are cramming romantic, and often times unrealistic, fantasies of teen sex down our throats at ever turn, I think it’s important to give kids a dose of realism.

Sex can be a lot of things. Fun, distracting, comforting, invigorating, even violent and traumatizing. It is a spectrum, ranging from beautiful to ugly. Often, especially in popular Young Adult and New Adult fiction, we only look at the two extremes of “making love” and sexual abuse. Sometimes we even see them in the same story, but rarely do I see them depicted with the honestly and realism young readers deserve.

I have nothing against escapism, but I believe it’s important to temper it with realism to foster healthy attitudes about sex and relationships. Especially, when the rates of sexual assault and abuse among teens is reaching epidemic levels. (44% of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 18. [source])

Sex & Violence covers the spectrum of sex, from casual hook-ups, to friendly make out sessions, and even brutal sexual assault. It also addresses the effects of sex on a young person, and creates a great opportunity to discuss sex, violence, emotional health, sexual and emotional boundaries, with young readers, be they students, siblings or your own children.

Review Proper

Evan Carter is always the New Guy. His father’s work keeps them moving all the time, all over the country, but Evan doesn’t mind (or so he claims). Being the New Guy allows him to perfect his strategy of finding the Girl Who Would Say Yes. What she’s saying yes to is, of course, sex.

See, Evan is a self proclaimed manwhore. He sleeps with a lot of girls, often deleting their phone numbers afterward. Or his father gets another assignment or job and they move to a new town with new girls who say yes. That’s his routine, his comfort zone, but everything changes when he sets his sights on Colette, his roommate’s ex-girlfriend.

This is not the same old romantic cliche about how all a promiscuous young men needs is the love of a good girl to cure him of his manwhoring ways. The world of Sex & Violence is realistic, where choices come with consequences, and how devastating they can be on everyone involved. Those consequences are what brings Evan and his father to Minnesota, to a cabin on the shore of Pearl Lake, where Evan meets a whole host of kids with their own problems and where he struggles to find find peace and to feel safe again. Through therapy and honest self examination Evan finds a the path to personal growth. Where he learns that girls and sex aren’t the answer to his problems. In fact, that meeting a great girl can sometimes makes things worse and his personal issues even more difficult to deal with.

One of the things that struck me the most about Sex & Violence was the beautifully constructed characters. From Evan and his quiet, quixotic father to Baker, the great girl next door, and even the “Stoner Guy” Jesse and Layne, Evan’s boss at the grocery store. None of them feel like characters. They feel like real people you meet throughout your life, at summer camp, while working a part time jobs or at trailer park kegger crowded with chain-smoking girls who have the scratch voices of 80 year old women.

Every inch of this story has life and authenticity, which makes it effortless to fall into. I fell hard, for Evan and the motley crue of friends, acquaintances, adults and coworkers who populate his life. Evan’s 1st person narration carried me through the story and invested me in his recovery process. It was an emotional ride, but not a melodramatic one. There’s violence, sex, arguments and breathless moments of sexual tension that left me blushing, but none of it ever seemed over the top. It felt like I was living life along side this brilliant, lonely, mixed-up young man who was so much better than he thought and deserved so much more than he had.

Sex & Violence is a journey, but much like life it ends as a new chapter in Evan’s life begins. Very much like life there is nothing tidy, romantic or simple about it. This is not a romance, or a fairy tale. Its a piece of life, in all it’s messy, beautiful wonder and it is absolutely worth your time to read it.

A bit of Feminist Fangirling and Final Thoughts

I am stunned by how many multi-dimensional, strong and complex women are in this book. Despite it being written from a male POV they still come through loud and clear. In fact, Evan’s life is populated by sexual empowered, outspoken and yet relatable women. Colette, Baker, Brenda (Baker’s mother), his own mother, even Jancita (his boss’ girlfriend and mother of his son) all have depth dimension and voices of their own. Several of the girls he’s involved with are sexually confident and one even complains that her boyfriend call her sexual aggressive.

Baker especially is opinionated and even rants about the patriarchy on several occasions, but she is no straw-feminists. In fact, her outspoken, non-stereotypical girlie girl behavior is what Evan finds attractive about her. She’s a “dork about history,” and easy to talk to, which he also sees as positives. I love how it’s the girls that challenge him, who are human beings that are most desirable to him. Which makes a lot of sense, since part of Evan’s growth is learning that other people are just as complex, flawed and fucked up as he is. This was nailed home

Sex & Violence’s take on the trauma of being the male/outside perspective of sexual assault, and how men cope the often unspoken sense of responsibility and self blame. It explores the prevalent sense of failure at not having protected the victim, that is deeply tied into cultural expectations of masculinity and strength. It also the exploration of how sex can be just as emotionally damaging for young men as it can be for women. How too often men and women use sex like a recreational drug to distract, numb or cope with other emotional traumatic issues. This is address in an honest and realistic way, with none of the typical slut shaming, abstinence propaganda or romantic fantasies that is so often employed in young adult fiction. In fact, we see how each one of those unrealistic belief systems and fantasies can be just as or even more damaging to kids.

I’ve been wanting a story like this for a long time, and as you can tell by my mile long review, it was absolutely worth the wait.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,162 followers
November 8, 2013
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I am, largely, speechless when it comes to Sex & Violence. Obviously, its title is an eye-catcher, not to mention its cover, but the majority of my inability to articulate coherent phrases stems from the fact that I - still - find it difficult to decipher my feelings for this novel. While I firmly believe that Mesrobian's debut is brilliant, touching upon "taboo" subjects with a prose that is both gripping and poignant, I cannot claim to have wholly loved it, heart and soul.

Sex & Violence is told from the perspective of Evan Carter, a typical teenage boy whose sole preoccupation lies with the opposite gender. Ever since his mother died, Evan and his father have moved from city to city, which has given Evan the perpetual status of the New Guy. Fortunately for him, he has learned to cope with his lifestyle, making the most of it by narrowing his sights on the girls most likely to put out, having sex with them, and moving on before the relationship can progress any further. Needless to say, Evan isn't a very nice person, so perhaps it isn't much of a surprise when karma finally gets back at him - big time. While "dating" Collette, the ex-girlfriend of his roommate, Evan is beaten brutally and left, hurting, in a shower. In order to help his son heal and cope with the trauma he has faced, Evan's father moves him to a quiet cabin in Pearl Lake, a small town with an aura of friendliness. Evan, however, doesn't simply have to move on from his past - he needs to find a way to prevent it from occurring again.

Immediately, what jumps out at me about Sex & Violence is its honest, brutal prose. Mesrobian doesn't hesitate to shove all the darkest corners of Evan's thought into the limelight, portraying him a manner that is both unflinching, but often disconcerting - in the best way possible. I've discovered, surprisingly, that I rather enjoy having a narrator whose flaws are outlined from the very beginning. It creates a different reading experience altogether; one a little more intimate as, obviously, we're meant to be rooting for this guy, although we know all the horrible acts he's committed.

Nevertheless, while many may shirk away from a character like Evan, I couldn't help but embrace him, particularly because his growth throughout the novel is impeccably paced. While Evan starts out suffering severe PTSD, unable to step into a shower for months on end, his slow change is subtle. Moreover, for someone like Evan who has made sexual activity - and just sexual activity, without dating or emotions - a lifeline, it takes more than just one brutal beating to knock him into normalcy. Mesrobian understands this and although Evan suffers tremendously within the opening chapters of this novel, his anguish doesn't end; rather, it continues and manifests itself in different ways as Evan battles his past and tries to move on, desperately, into a future he is unable to even imagine.

Yet, my hands-down favorite aspect of this novel was its portrayal of women. Now, this may seem incredibly ironic as the protagonist of our story is a young man who sleeps with a multitude of teens, without any regard for them whatsoever, but the underlying themes of this novel truly come to light with Mesrobian's characterization. Although the novel could - easily - give rise to slut-shaming, it avoids this completely. Even Evan, the ultimate man-whore, contemplates the double standards of society as a girl seeking sex is a slut while a guy seeking sex is just "sowing his oats", as the expression goes. Thus, Evan really doesn't judge. What Mesrobian manages to covey, so perfectly, is the idea that no matter what kind of girl you are - the kind who has sex, the kind who waits for sex, or even the kind who does everything but sex - there's nothing to be ashamed of. Evan forms friendships with girls who fall into all these categories, and ones in-between too, but he discovers, at the end of the day, that their sex lives have no bearing on their personality, their ambition, their drive, or their futures. For me, the fact that this theme is so subtle - is so accepted - is far more effective than an in-your-face message. Ultimately, all these teens, no matter what they've chosen to do with their bodies, are seen as empowered without one specific "path" proven to be better - morally or psychologically.

Although Sex & Violence has so much going for it, I must admit that the narration could drag at times, losing my interest for a few pages every-so-often. Additionally, I feel as if Mesrobian took quite a lot on her plate. Issues such as sex and violence are difficult enough to discuss in an effective manner - particularly violence which is romanticized by the media though portrayed in a realistic manner in this novel - but into this mix, Mesrobian throws in a complicated father-son relationship, exacerbated by an uncle who is mysteriously absent from their lives. While I enjoyed - very much - the dynamics of the relationship between Evan and his father, the lack of closure was a little bothersome. Moreover, Uncle Soren makes a shot-gun appearance at the end of this novel, conveniently tying up a minor plot thread, but throwing off the balance of the story arc. Likewise, the excuses given for Evan's behavior during the last pages of this novel - the mysterious story of the Cupcake Lady of Tacoma finally revealed! - felt forced and lacked any true impact for me, as a reader. While Mesrobian attempts to build an honest image of Evan's life, her last-minute justifications for his behavior regarding sex didn't add to the story in the least. On the contrary, I felt as if the journey Evan underwent as a rather normal teenage boy with a severe misunderstanding of sex and respect was a much better angle to stick with, from beginning to end.

While the ending chapters of this story may have diminished my love for the story as a whole, just a little bit, there is no denying that Sex & Violence is the type of bold and gritty reads I've craved - for awhile, now - to appear in YA. Mesrobian's novel is what many more books need to be and I sincerely hope that, if not sparking a revolution of far more honest and realistic YA, Mesrobian at least returns to the genre in her sophomore novel to touch upon more "taboo" subjects that other authors are too afraid to approach, even with a ten-foot pole. Needless to say, Sex & Violence is an incredible debut and I can only wait - eagerly - for more.

You can read this review along with a guest post by Carrie Mesrobian on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for Brie.
321 reviews48 followers
April 7, 2015

So much shit.

Bull shit.
Horse shit.
Llama shit.
Bat shit.

"A knockout blow of a debut. Powerful, funny, brutal, and true." - Gayle Forman

BRUTAL IS THE ONLY TRUE DESCRIPTION IN THAT REVIEW. It was brutal, brutally boring and gross. So much in fact that I wished Muhammad Ali would've came and KNOCKED ME THE FUCK OUT.

Utterly gripping." - Kirkus Reviews

AN UTTER FUCKING SNOREFEST. And when I wasn't snoring, I wanted to throat punch EVERY. FUCKING. CHARACTER.

"Mesrobian talks about hookup culture in a way that is character-based, not agenda-driven, and showcases a teenager who grows and changes without becoming unrecognizable or saintly." - Publisher's Weekly

YEAH, THE CHARACTER CHANGES, HE IS AFRAID OF SHOWERS. And can't fucking wank it anymore. Boo fucking hoo, I'm so sorry for you - where is the sympathy for the background character WHO WAS RAPED SO HORRIBLY SHE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO HAVE KIDS.

That's my fucking problem - I want HER story. I could give two fucking shits less about goddamned Evan Carter and how much he likes staring at Baker's ass or tits all the fucking time, but feels really guilty about it cause he knows he shouldn't.

I almost fucking cared about him getting a horrendously awful beat down in the communal showers - but Evan killed any possible sympathy by being who he was. And everything that the writer SHOULD HAVE delved into and explained to MAKE you give a shit about Evan, she didn't. She gave you boring bullshit and I kept waiting for the profound moment when I gave a fuck.


Fuck this book.

Profile Image for Rose.
1,854 reviews1,046 followers
September 11, 2013
Initial reaction: Yeah, I'll have to think about this one. Evan's account and voice was very good, I definitely appreciated the story on many levels as to how it pulled me into the narrative and didn't let go. I did have a few issues with it, but overall, I really liked this first read from Carrie Mesrobian.

Full review:

Beautifully written and compelling novel in Carrie Mesrobian's "Sex & Violence" - I would personally put this among my favorites for its subject matter alongside Laurie Halse Anderson's "Twisted" and Alex Finn's "Breathing Underwater." The reason I evoke comparisons to those two novels is that this book takes on some very tough issues from the perspective of a young male narrator, and does so very well in a way that feels realistic. It's not without caveats, but I found it hard to put this book down, if for the fact that Evan's voice pulled me into his respective thoughts and conflicts.

Evan's a 17-18 year old boy who has a hard time settling down in his life. His father moves them to so many places, making him have a hard time forming relationships and any kind of significant attachments. Particularly, this factor is mirrored in his sexual relationships with girls as well, until the day he's brutally beaten while in the showers.

His father moves them from North Carolina to Pearl Lake, Minnesota for the summer. Evan has to heal in more ways than one, from getting a therapist to navigating his relationships along with the people he meets, to wrestling his own internal demons and learning to define himself individually as well as sexually. This book has quite a few slower/quiet paced moments - but it vets the character's mentality and struggles very well. Evan has body issues, sex issues, insecurities about his being that I think resonate well for one his age. There's quite a bit of exploration on teen sexuality, drug use, among other things in this narrative that don't pull punches. While Evan isn't always the most likable character, the way he evolves over time and the way the narrative unravels his insecurities and pains really got to me. His relationship with Colette is defined from the beginning of the novel (he writes her unaddressed letters on the part of a therapeutic intervention), but his ultimate relationships with Blake, Layne, his father, uncle, among others color the novel very well.

I wouldn't call "Sex and Violence" a romance at all, but more of a grief/tough subject/coming of age story. There are times when it's very humorous (in a dark way - Evan has quite a few one-liners that made me chuckle through the narrative). Even as I mention it held my attention - I did notice the pacing was more sluggish in certain areas of the narrative than it should've been. It didn't prevent me from seeing how well thought out this narrative was in addressing the themes that it did, and from appreciating how Evan progresses from his PTSD to moving forward with his life and learning from his past and present terms. I'd certainly recommend it for its audience and beyond for what it brings to the table, especially in progressive conversations about its themes.

Overall score: 4/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.
Profile Image for Trish Doller.
Author 10 books1,722 followers
February 17, 2013
Sex & Violence is an absolutely unrelenting look at life after physical and emotional trauma. It's dark and sometimes painful to watch, but it hurts even more to look away. Evan's story will sit with me for a very long time.

(I blurbed this book. That's what I said.)
Profile Image for Heather.
569 reviews
July 10, 2013

I first heard about Sex & Violence after noticing on Goodreads that a favorite author was reading it. Later, I featured it in a Waiting on Wednesday post and it turned out to be one of the most viewed Wow's I ever posted. Let's be honest: the title probably had a lot to do with it. Whether it intrigues you, shocks you or repulses you, I think it's safe to say that the title is an attention grabber.

But it's the synopsis of the book that really hooked me as a reader. First off male POV'S are AWESOME. Rarely do I read a book with a male POV that I don't enjoy. Being inside the head of someone who is the opposite sex is always, always a trip. And being inside the head of a seventeen year old boy? COME. ON. What girl hasn't wanted to go there at some point?

But here is what you should know about being inside the head of Sex & Violence's protagonist, Evan Carter: it's not always a pretty place to be. And the idea that all teenage boys are preoccupied with sex? Well that's definitely the case with Evan. In fact, it's only a few pages in that the reader discovers Evan's modus operandi. Like a highly trained sportsman, Evan Carter is all about the hunt. Selecting the target carefully and moving in for the kill. It is his mission to seek out and locate the elusive, or, not so elusive, Girl Who Would Say Yes. Yes to sex that is. Girls who would say yes tend to be a bit on the fringe, on the outset, left of center. Girls who "aren't allergic to risk."

Once the target is locked, his move is made and the deed done, Evan is gone in a flash. Phone numbers are deleted, texts go unanswered. Doesn't matter if it was a cool chick or not. Love them and leave them fast is the name of the game. No attachments to worry about. No one getting too close. One down and on to the next. And Evan moves around a lot, his father's job insuring that he never stays in any one place too long. Which works out great for Evan and his personal philosophy on sex.

This is your introduction to Evan Carter. And as you might surmise, he's not meant to be the most likable of guys. And when Evan makes his move on the wrong girl at the wrong time in the wrong place, his life will change forever.

I found myself feeling torn as a reader. On one hand, I felt bad for what had happened to Evan. No one deserves to end up the way he ends up after chapter one. After Evan is jumped and beaten to within an inch of his life,the worst part is the assault was just as damaging to him on the inside as it was on the outside. But on the other hand, is it any surprise that Evan's actions, his manipulations and user lifestyle, finally landed him in hot water? He made his proverbial bed after all. Poetic justice, right?

So, from the get go, I knew that Carrie Mesrobian had her work cut out for her. How do you take such an unlikable character and redeem him, not only in the eyes of his family, peers and himself, but in the eyes of the reader? It's a tricky thing to do as a writer, it's a fine line to walk. Does she accomplish this? We'll get there. But here is a little more about Evan.

Evan has undergone a horribly traumatic event. Not unlike victims of sexual assault or veterans returning home from war, he is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His father, who is emotionally distant, decides to move them to his childhood home: a cabin on Pearl Lake in Minnesota. A little something about the Minnesota setting: I loved this cabin at the lakeside locale. Pearl Lake is like any small town setting. You have your exclusive, rich folks side. You have your trashy/ "loadie" side and you have your normal side, the side that hosts bonfires and BBQ's, the side where Evan and his friends Baker and Tom all live. This setting was fun because even though it's not an area I have ever visited, I totally got the summertime-spent-with-your-neighbors-and-friends vibe that I think Carrie was going for.

Back to the story. Evan attends therapy once a week. As part of his therapy, he is encouraged to write a letter each week to someone. It's his private thoughts, no one but Evan reads it, and he decides to write to Collette, the girl that he was seeing when he was assaulted. Through these letters, we begin to understand the guilt that Evan feels after what happened. And we get a idea of the anxiety and fear that has plagued him as well.

The move itself is therapeutic. It not only gives Evan a chance to reconnect on some level with his dad, but also to set down roots for the first time since he was a kid. Evan meets new people at Pearl Lake, people who, unlike him, have built solid relationships with each other and been friends most of their lives. Gradually, over time, Evan begins to trust, building relationships with both men and women. Evan has never been friends with girls his age, he has only ever seen them as a means to an end. This book may be written from a male POV, but is still written by a female author. And I think that is why nearly all the women represented in Sex & Violence are written as strong, capable and outspoken. Be it Evan's therapist, Janice; or the girl he took the beating for, Collette; or the object of his current affection, next door neighbor Baker Trieste, all the women in Sex & Violence are forces to be reckoned with.

One reason I dig these women: they are all sexually empowered. Guys, I love a book that has sex positive themes, especially in YA. In Sex & Violence we meet women who may have different viewpoints about sex but all of them stand by their convictions. Collette admits to being slut shamed, made to feel guilty about her promiscuity presenting that age old question of why a promiscuous girl is deemed a whore and a promiscuous boy is seen as simply "sewing his wild oats." Yet even though she is labeled, Collette instigates a sexual relationship with Evan.

Baker advocates a "Summer of Last Chances" which in one part means a summer of no rules/ non-monogamy. But unlike Collette, Baker's stance is seen in a positive light, she is viewed as intelligent and strong-willed, her ideas seen by most, including her mom, as healthy.

Kelly, another Pearl Lake resident, and girlfriend of Evan's friend Tom, has decided to abstain from sex with her longtime boyfriend. She gets teased a little by her friends, but her decision still stands. She is empowered for standing her ground and holding firm to her beliefs when it comes to her own body.

I love that Mesrobian includes all these different sides of the sex question, and allows the the women in this book to be who they want to be without being guilted or shamed into being more or less sexual. I think this is such an important message for any female, especially young adult girls. I am thrilled that Sex & Violence highlights this issue.

There is a lot to be said for the male characters in this book too. Evan's relationship with his father is shaky, but there are other men in this book that act as positive male role models, from Evan's idealistic Uncle Soren and his ideas about family and home, to his boss Layne and his brother Tim, who teach Evan how to defend himself. Each of these figures are total gems, and add even more to the story as Evan tries to heal both emotionally and physically.

And you know, Evan's healing and growth is really the crux of this book. Sex & Violence is character driven but it's not romance driven. Carrie herself has stated that this book isn't rife with full-on moments of swoon, although I'm betting you will find yourself smitten with Baker and rooting for she and Evan as you read.

Sex & Violence features a voyage of self discovery storyline, it is about Evan learning to trust, learning to connect with people in a healthy way, and it's about him learning to to let go of who he thinks he is as a person. Evan's got a boatload of self loathing going on in him. He's not written as a "Woe is me" or "Please feel sorry for me" character. He is written as an intelligent, snarky teenage boy who thinks that deep down inside he is a piece of shit. The beauty of this book is Evan facing this head on and learning to overcome it.

And this happens in a gradual way. There is no big "A ha!" moment for him. It takes time, it's small victories alongside setbacks, just like REAL LIFE. There is a scene in the book when Evan says that if he could have one thing it would be to have a real romantic sexual encounter. Evan's had lots of sex, but not the kind you "see on TV and in the movies." Not the kind with all your clothes off where you fall asleep and wake up the next day beside that person. Not with someone he loves. This seems like such a normal thing to most of us, but to someone like Evan it's a thing he has yet to experience. That is such a change in attitude from the beginning of this book. Talk about phenomenal character growth and development.

And have I mentioned what an incredible authentic and SCARILY realistic character Evan is? Or how in awe I am that he is written by a female author? How she has managed to nail the voice of this broken seventeen year old boy is beyond me, but she HAS. Sex & Violence is written is a very straight forward way. It's smart and it's frank and it's unflinchingly honest. And it's written with humor and snark. There were many, many laugh out loud moments in this book, both in the dialogue and in Evan's inner monologue. Like this scene when Evan and Baker are out looking for their friends pontoon boat that has run out of gas:

"Conley always has to fucking pre-party," Baker said. I hated when people used the word "party" as a verb, but I didn't mention this to Baker, because she sounded pretty mad. Also, I was wondering what exactly a "pontoon" was. It sounded like Minnesota slang for "vagina."

Maybe it's just me, but those kind of quips crack my ass up every single time. And Sex & Violence is full of them. Since reading this book I have gotten to know author Carrie Mesrobian (she and I are making our way through J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books and are having a grand time poking fun at that series.) And I can tell you that a lot of Evan's brand of humor is also Carrie's brand of humor. Sarcastic, witty, and smart. The type of humor that makes Evan a really likable character even when he's acting in some pretty unlikable ways. Again, it's authentic and real. No character in this book, especially Evan is written as black or white. All have so many dimensions, layers, and flaws. I think this is the main reason why so many outstanding authors have written positive blurbs about this book and Carrie's writing.

So, does Carrie Mesrobian accomplish the task of taking an unlikable protagonist and developing him into someone more worthy? The simple answer is yes, she does. And what's more she does this without losing sight of who Evan is. Even though Evan undergoes extreme character growth, he still remains, at his core, the same guy we are introduced to in the beginning of the book. I think Melina Marchetta said it best when she talking about her character Froi from The Lumatere Chronicles. When asked how she was able to take a side character from the first book who was an ignorant thief and liar, not to mention a would be rapist, and turn him into the hero of the following two books in the series, she said the key was to never let anyone forget. As a writer she never allowed herself to forget what Froi did, and in turn she never let Froi the character forget what he did, which again, in turn, never let the reader forget what Froi had done. She never swept it under the rug. And I think that Carrie Mesrobian accomplishes the same with Evan in Sex & Violence. Evan, no matter the amount of healing and growth that he undergoes always struggles with his two self's: good Evan and dirt bag Evan. And as a result the reader never forgets either. Yet like Marchetta's Froi, the fact that Evan has been able to overcome so much makes him and his story all the more compelling.

Carrie Mesrobian has truly written a masterful debut. Sex & Violence is multi-layered and thought provoking. It is a stark look at human nature, and it is, at it's heart, the story of redemption. It is a standalone (and I feel it ends in a very good place) and I am beyond excited to read more by this author. Her next work will also be a contemporary Young Adult read, and I cannot wait read it.

I read this book a few months back, and I have found that the more I think about it, the more I analyze all the different layers, the more impressed I am. It's not a happily ever after type of read, it's kind of messy, and gritty, and raw. There's sex and violence and foul language and recreational drug use found within it's pages. The characters are complex and their stories run the gamut from funny to endearing to heartbreaking. It's a lot like life, you guys. And THAT is what makes this book so good.
Profile Image for Mari.
183 reviews49 followers
February 21, 2016
(Lots of spoilers and incorrect English ahead.)
(Also, GR, don't edit my reviews without notifying me wtf??)

So, the back of the cover says,
"This is one hell of an impressive debut, filled with a persuasive undercurrent of fear, tension, and uncertainty you get from staring down into the deepest, darkest, coldest lake. Sex & Violence deserves shelf space alongside the classics of adolescent-themed fiction."
-- Andrew Smith, author of Winger and The Marbury Lens
and uh, no.

I mean, i don't know man, i'm willing to believe that's what you truly think, but in that case we haven't read the same book, because "filled with a persuasive undercurrent of fear, tension, and uncertainty you get from staring down into the deepest, darkest, coldest lake" is what i was expecting, sure, but it's also everything this book ended up not being.

I was hopeful, really, despite the ridiculously tacky title. I bought the actual hardcover, and y'all know how much i hate hardcover editions of contemporary books. (Well, you know now...) The reviewers seemed oh-so enthusiastic (just look at those ratings) and the synopsis sounded so intriguing. I thought i was in for an emotional, psychologically charged read. Something really intense.

And was i let down...

It was flat and emotionless, rather boring, and the plot was all over the place. The pacing was super weird, too. There was little to no change in the tone as the story went on. I couldn't figure out what mattered and what didn't, because everything sounded the same. No epiphany, no climax, nothing. For about 75% of the book the characters merely to-ed and fro-ed, a few random subplots were added for purposes unknown (Evan's mom + uncle, anyone?) and... yeah?

The writing bugged me just as much. It wasn't bad per se (it did its job, for a quick and easy read... Except when it didn't), but the author did this annoying thing where she jumped from one subject to another, with no transition or explanation, that left me confused and wondering why the characters acted or reacted the way they did.
Information wise, we only got the bare necessities.

I did love the beginning! (And that's what got me fooled - i decided to trust Amazon's preview.) Unfortunately, by "the beginning" i mean the first 30 pages or so. In a 300 pages long book... I kind of liked the ending, too (30 pages or so, again), but mostly because that one annoying character i couldn't stand had left by then, and i was too happy to see Evan end up with someone else (there's no love triangle or anything, and the book isn't romance driven. I just didn't want the MC to end up with that one chick we were led to believe he was going to end up with. She was unbearable.)

Talking about the MC. Evan. I quite liked him. Despite his occasional douchebaggery and a bunch of rather problematic statements he'd made, he was a fun narrator, overall; sassy and entertaining. (I think he's the only reason why i bothered actually finishing this book.)

But Evan was also a physically and psychologically traumatised teenager. Or, at least, that's what he was supposed to be... The whole time i kept waiting for an in-depth exploration of his state, and i never got that. His trauma never rang particularly true to me.

Here's how the story goes: Evan is severely beaten up in his dorm's shower room by an insane dude (Evan's own roommate), because he hooked up with Dude's ex-girlfriend. While Evan is lying half-dead on the floor, the poor girl gets raped by Insane Dude and one of his equally insane friends. Later, Evan's father makes him move to another state where the healing process can start, but now Evan 1) doesn't want to get involved with girls, because he's still [supposedly] traumatised by what happened and scared it'll happen again, and 2) feels guilty, because he believes nothing this terrible would've happened to the girl who got raped (Collette), had he not been so "slutty" (his words) and hooked up with her.

And here's the thing... I want characters to show me how they feel, not tell me. (You already see where i'm going with this?) What Evan did was telling the reader just how scared and broken and traumatised he was. But he never actually acted like it. Wait, no! Yes. He did. He was freaked out by showers. So he washed himself in a lake, at times.
... . . . ... ..
Showers. That's it.

Some scenes gave me hope, but it all fell flat, eventually.

Eg: At some point in the story, Evan ended up skinny-dipping with a girl -in a friendly, platonic way- and was anxious her quarterback boyfriend would show up and see them and get jealous and beat him. YES. GOOD. That was a logical reaction, this kind of irrational fear. That seemed realistic. It all got ruined, though, when Quarterback Boyfriend called Evan the next day (because they're pals and all... I mean, they've known each other for 2.5 weeks) and invited him to hang out at his place with another one of his big, scary, Hulk look-alike friends.
How does that ruin anything, you ask?

A big guy.

Invites Evan to hang out.

Tells him another big guy will be there, too.

This happens one day after Evan's been skinny-dipping with one of the guys' girlfriend.

Rings any bells..? Yeah?

Well, not with Evan, because, where i was expecting a reaction similar to something like, "He probably saw us swimming and it's a trap and he wants to beat the shit out of me and that's why Hulk is there, and just because i've known them for a few weeks doesn't mean i can trust them. No way i'm going.", something paranoid like that, i got a, "Yeah sure." from Evan.
And so they met.
And went to a party.
And got wasted.


There's worse, though, i'm not just being picky.

Later, Evan meets this random chick, Lana, who's also Evan's boss's step-sister. His boss tells Evan that he needs to be careful because -DUN DUN DUN- Lana has a big, scary, convict ex-boyfriend who hasn't given up on her and is ready to destroy anyone who dares to touch her.

You'd think Evan would run away and never look back, or at least have second thoughts, or wonder about his shitty luck... Neh. He simply decides to learn how to fight, in case Covict Guy really wants to beat him, takes a few lessons, and the next thing we know is he's having sex with Lana, knowing all well that she has a crazy ex-boyfriend fresh out of prison lurking somewhere out there.

I mean, okay, one could argue that's character growth (learning how to fight, feeling stronger, et cetera), but it seemed, to me, like Evan did it because he was merely annoyed with the fact that some guy could punch him in the face; like it had nothing to do with his past and his trauma. I don't think knowing how to throw a punch or two would've made it all go away all of a sudden.

Where did Evan's fear and confusion go? You know... the whole mix of SEX & VIOLENCE thing? How did he deal with it? When? How did he heal? DID he heal?

It bugged me, too, how the teenagers in this book just kept drinking alcohol and doing weed and mushrooms 24/7, and no one cared. I mean, i love chill parents. If i'm ever a parent, i'll be a chill parent. But there's a difference between being chill and irresponsible. At some point, one of the characters mentions that her mom told her not to drive if she'd been drinking, but that's as serious as it gets. The kids get shitfaced on daily basis and then go swimming and no one's there to care. Also, it just didn't seem realistic that none of them was an addict at that point, or had had an accident or just drowned.

Then there were the illogical bits. Like, Evan was assaulted, so he has wounds, right? Well, he has a cut that goes all the way across his chest/belly, but he can walk and run and swim alright. But then he also has a cut on his lip, and weeks -if not months- after the incident it keeps opening and bleeding when he does as little as smile. What's uo with that?

He also partially lost his hearing. He can't hear with his left ear anymore. But apparently it doesn't affect his everyday life at all. He mentions it once, when he hears voices in some bushes but can't quite make out the words. And that's it...
I don't know, but i have a hard time believing that adjusting to being half-deaf is that easy...

And don't get me started on the girl who got raped. She deserved much more attention than she got. I know it was Evan's book, but it felt like she'd been used as a tool in his story.

I just overall didn't like how this book dealt with subjects such as rape and assault. And, at times, how it portrayed women. And homosexuality (i didn't know there were so many variations of the word "f*g").

Basically, this is yet another case of a good idea that's been poorly executed. Some parts were enjoyable, but i was very disappointed, overall, and all the gushing reviews leave me perplexed.

Oh, and a quick PSA:

Authors, if you're gonna make me pay $15 for your book, make sure it's been properly edited and proofread. This is not what “properly edited and proofread” looks like:
• “How Marchant was the French word for ‘merchant’”
     — No. In French, it’s “marchand”. You can look that shit up in a dictionary.

• “You’re dad told us we should make ourselves at home!”

• “You’re pupils are fucking huge!”

• “‘June 20,” Tom said, sounding tired, as if it he was the one making the fairy costumes himself.”
     — Thanks for adding random extra words. Very generous. Still not worth $15.

• “I was always the oldest kid in my class, as my mother had held me back from kindergarten. […] Apparently she thought me too much of an idiot to handle sitting still for storytime with everyone else. […] But for some reason, being held back like this made me feel stupid […]”
     — I dunno, maybe my English is just bad, but this makes no sense to me. “She thought i was an idiot, BUT it made me feel stupid”? ??? ? ? ? ? ???? ?? ?? “And it made me feel stupid”; “So it made me feel stupid”; “As a result it made me feel stupid”. Why “but”?!

• “I didn’t mention this to Baker, because she sounded pretty mad.” —then on the NEXT page: “But i didn’t mention this trivia to her [Baker]. She sounded very angry.”

• “[…] you’re a year younger and think he’s god” + “Oh my fucking god!”
     — No. I don’t care how much of an atheist you are. It’s either “a god” or “God”. It's a proper noun and needs to be capitalised. It’s not about religion, it’s about grammar.

• “While Jesse had a broken-off conversation with the Tan Redhead [..]” —one paragraph later: “While Jesse pushed through a stupid conversation with Tan Redhead […]”
I'm out.
Profile Image for Sandra .
1,674 reviews308 followers
June 25, 2013
Available in October 2013

This is the kind of book that gives the YA genre a good name, especially considering that it's told entirely from Evan's 17 yo POV, with a huge does of realism that is so often missing.

He's not really a likable character. His mother died, and he doesn't have a close relationship with his father. Like any 17 yo, he constantly has sex on the brain. With what should be classified as man-whore behavior, he will delete a girl's phone number from his phone as soon as the hook-up is over, not caring and/or not understanding the havoc he's wreaking on the girls' psyches or his own. He sees girls as objects and is always on the lookout for the next hook-up, while perfecting his hunting routine to find the girl who'll say yes.

Perpetually the 'new guy at school' due to his father's job which requires frequent moves, the book opens with Evan at a boarding school where his constant quest to find 'the girl who would say yes' takes a violent turn when he is beaten in the communal shower room within an inch of his life. After a lengthy hospital stay, and minus his spleen, Evan finds himself in the family cabin in small town Minnesota.

The book honestly depicts teenage sex, the hormone driven need to hook up with anyone willing without the ability to understand the emotional fallout from those activities. Even the horrific assault doesn't completely change Evan's view of girls. The realism in this novel is what earned it five shiny stars.

What impressed me most is that this novel shows a range of teenage sexual activities and realistically depicts the confusion and struggles these teens deal with as they explore their sexuality, from heavy make-out sessions to full-blown sex to cheating because your girlfriend doesn't put out all the way to promiscuity.

The book's title should be heeded, because both Sex and Violence do happen in this book, and, in some instances, they are related. The book covers, through the variety of characters, the wide range of sex, from emotional connections to casually hooking up to physical and sexual abuse.

As Evan deals with the consequences of his behavior and the subsequent fallout of the beating, primarily his PTSD and his guilt, he finds himself working with a psychologist to figure out how to move past the horrific assault.

A big part of his PTSD manifests itself in his inability to shower in the bathroom of the cabin because it cannot be locked. He would rather go days without showering than being naked in an unlocked bathroom. He's trying to assuage his guilt by writing letters to Colette, the girl he pursued and who triggered the assault, even though she's not to blame for it. I initially thought that only Evan had suffered the consequences of pursuing his room-mate's ex-girlfriend, but we eventually find out that's not the case.

In Evan, the author created a complex, multi-dimensional, authentic-sounding character, with real issues and real confusion and real personal growth. And real setbacks. Not all is smooth sailing, which only drove home the point.

The supporting cast was superbly crafted as well, from Evan's dad who tries so hard to connect with his son, to Baker who befriends Evan, to Layne, his co-worker, who seems to serve as somewhat of an older friend role model, to the other friends Evan makes during the summer, as well as his uncle from whom Evan learns a secret his father has kept all these years but who provides great insight as well.

There's a bit of slut-shaming going on as well, but it fits the overall characterizations and thus almost needs to be in the book. This is also tempered by the depiction of most of the women in this book, who are outspoken and no shrinking violets in any aspect of their lives. It is through them that Evan learns to see women not as objects to scratch an itch, but as real people with struggles of their own.

What I felt throughout most of the book is sadness for Evan. I wanted to hug him more than once, which surprised me, because as I mentioned earlier, he's not actually a likable character.

This book doesn't provide a happy summer read, nor is it meant to be read quickly or with expectations of a great romance. While the language is often explicit, and Evan frequently drops the F-bomb, don't mistake this book for the usual YA/NA fare. This is not a YA novel where boy falls for girl and vice versa, and they live happily ever after.

If you're expecting a fluffy romance, the title alone should tip you off. Proceed with caution, but please do proceed to buy this book at your earliest convenience and savor it. And if you have teenagers or soon to be teenagers of your own, consider reading this book with them. The lessons within are profound. You can betcha that this book will be on their reading list when my own children reach this age.

I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return.

Profile Image for Jonetta.
2,164 reviews879 followers
July 27, 2013
Sex has always come without consequence for seventeen-year-old Evan. It was easy for him, even. That is, until he hooks up 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. Yet it may also offer him his best shot at making sense of his life again.

I’m not usually a fan of YA written in a male’s POV. Not so with this book. It made me rethink my semi-strict rule of staying away from “boy” fiction. Mesrobian flawlessly enters the mind of 17-year old Evan and lets his story flow seamlessly through the pages. It’s gritty, unapologetic, and most importantly, believable.

Evan undergoes a major transformation in this story. He starts off as a care-free, cocky kid with no plans for the future. Then his whole world is rocked and he, along with his mostly absent dad, is left to pick up the pieces. This is when a new Evan is introduced. He’s vulnerable, and not so sure about life anymore. He struggles to do everyday things, like showering, and doesn’t know his place anymore. But with the help of a therapist, a motley crew of friends, an island, and handwritten letters, Evan begins to figure things out again. Even if he doesn’t have all the answers, life goes on and he’ll move on with it.

I’m a character-driven reader, so as long as I can connect to the characters, the story is golden (for the most part). Yet, had I not connected to Evan, this story was so well-written, I could have forgiven the lack of connection. From start to finish, I was sucked in and couldn’t turn away. Months later and I’m still thinking about these characters and their stories. Their stories were complex yet realistic. The content in this book tended to lean to the heavy, no light-hearted reading here, and luckily it still managed to stay away from the angsty teen drama found in so much YA. My only complaint is that I’d liked to have seen what became of Collette and Evan’s letters. I’m okay with open-ended endings, but I became so invested in this book, that I wanted just a bit more.

You are instantly drawn to Evan and his story. The story is hard to get through at times, but Evan tells it so matter-of-factly, so unfalteringly, that it’s easy to stay with him. He’s not the frequently found hero, Evan is flawed. He’s flawed and knows it. Yet, his charm, wit, and self-deprecating humor pulls you in. He might not be perfect, but he’s honest, deceivingly caring, and not afraid of taking chances. The other characters are introduced in different depths, but all well done and fleshed out. Most of the book I wanted to shake his dad, hug his therapist, and nudge a friend or two. And even when Evan doesn’t behave in exactly the way you’d want him to, you root for him. You root for the mismatched relationships he’s forged. And you root for his survival.

(I received an ARC from NetGalley)
Profile Image for Aaron Hartzler.
Author 4 books419 followers
August 26, 2013
The voice of the male protagonist in this book is the most riveting I’ve read in a long time. Carrie Mesrobian has crafted an ambitious first novel that weaves a young man's painfully authentic interior life with subjects and themes as diverse as lake ecology and feminism. The result is a gripping, tense portrait of one teen guy's struggle with his own emotional scars and demons. There isn't a single false note here. The language is spare, economical, and brutal. The result is a compulsively readable emotional journey that turns the tables on that fuzzy line between victim and perpetrator. This is a space where relatively few YA authors tread, but Mesrobian is unflinching. Her book asks hard questions then fights like hell to find answers that are anything but easy.
Profile Image for Jay.
532 reviews29 followers
August 2, 2015

At first you don’t see the connection...

And then you get the absolute living shit beaten out of you for fucking with the wrong girl! Well, that’s not entirely true, said girl had an arsehole ex that couldn’t accept that she was no longer his & he had an equally arseholey friend that would stick by him through ANYTHING! But still, you get the living crap beaten out of you and your whole life is irrevocably changed forever!

This causes a massive realisation for Evan, he comes to terms with the fact he’s been getting through life living as “Dirtbag Evan”. The type who plays the girls to get what he wants & knows exactly which ones to target. So far it’s been the easiest way for him to get through constantly changing schools & not making friends, but now things need to change.

Evan’s (almost) absent father takes him away to the family retreat to heal from the attack. His body heals rather quickly, but it’s his mind that’s suffered the most severe and long lasting damage. He now struggles with PTSD. Is forced to make friends he neither wants nor knows how to have normal relationships with. Has a hard time keeping Dirtbag Evan hidden from these new friends (old habits are hard to break). And struggles even more when it comes to healthy relationships with girls.

This is not a happy romance book, do not go into this expecting some lovey dovey happily ever after, and please don’t be disappointed when any possible love interests/relationships don’t eventuate to anything.

And for those looking for a book full of sex, and violence... this isn’t it. It does contain both, but it more looks at how both acts can have a profound influence on your life and who you are.

This is a story of struggles and healing, self awareness and betterment, a daily struggle of simple tasks we all take for granted, and the value of great friends (even if you never really wanted them in the first place).

I love this book because of the subject matter, it faces things many teen-ish books don’t, and it doesn’t gloss over stuff and make it all rosy. It’s well written, and keeps things broken as they would be in real life. Real life doesn’t have magic cures & miracle recoveries like fiction quite often does, this book reflects that well.

By the time we get to the end, Evan has made some HUGE progress, but he still has a very long road ahead of him until he is fully recovered, that’s if he ever can fully recover from his ordeal.

We never really find out exactly what the two arseholes did to Collette (said girl from above), from the snippets we do get... they really are arseholes!
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books332 followers
May 14, 2019
040519: very good young adult mundane literature. as opposed to ya fantasy/paranormal/dystopia etc. motivation of narrator, psychological rationale, credible if maybe overdetermined, but plots and characters develop together well. the boy is recognizable, someone ya readers might see every day at school, his adolescent voice, behavior, attitudes, relationships, all very much early 21 C north america rather than vampires, werewolves, superheroes, in whatever world. the girls sound real, the presumed psychology plausible, what happens happens and fallout believable. i hope this is not in development as tv miniseries or movie as that will probably render an adult view of adolescent story rather than this (see film of less than zero absolve corrupt immoral parents of any responsibility...). particularly fun, especially if ever knowing psych treatment, is the parallel between boxing training-speech and therapist-speech... and how the self-aware characters knowingly quote this in satiric dialogue...
Profile Image for Jenni Arndt.
438 reviews331 followers
November 12, 2013
This book has solidified the thought in my mind that my bloggy friends know what I will like better than I do. This book came to me highly recommended by 3 very reliable sources in my life and I have to take a moment to thank Kara, Christina and Wendy for bringing this book to my attention because somehow this one went completely under my radar until they brought it up to me. Sex & Violence blew me away, I was so invested in Evan’s story and I found myself enraptured in the slow transformation that he went through in the novel.

When we meet Evan he is what he calls the constant Fucking New Guy. His dad has him constantly moving around the country since his mother passed away and he knows how to get the girls to drop their panties. That’s all girls are to him, a lay, then he deletes their number out of his phone the very next day. Very early on in the novel Evan sleeps around with the wrong girl and finds himself nearly beaten to death and being moved back to the small lake-front town where his father grew up. Here we see Evan actually form strong relationships and realize that girls are much more than tits and ass.

I feel like I need to start by talking about Evan’s voice. From now on, when I think about novels where an author has authentically written the opposite sex, this novel will be the first to come to mind. Mesrobian blew me away because it didn’t feel like she was trying to convey a male voice at all, it just was a male voice. I find a lot of the time when this happens, especially a female writing a male, the character comes across as too hard, with no soft edges for me to connect with. But Evan had his soft side, as much as he was arrogant, he was very self aware and not afraid to say what he thought. Watching what he went through was hard, at so many points in the novel I wanted to cry for him, but what I admired was that he never played the blame game. He knew that what he did in his past, the bad decisions he seemed to constantly be making, set him up for what happened to him (what happened to him shouldn’t happen to anyone, but you know what I mean.)

We get to see a lot of different types of relationships in Mesrobian’s debut. We watch Evan and his father learn how to live together again, and struggle to find common ground on which to build their relationship. We also get to see him form friendships with guys, which he has never bothered to do before. Evan struggles with everything in the aftermath of his attack and it was a slow process for him to work back to trust and being comfortable with something as simple as taking a shower. He builds a respect toward women as the novel goes on. He meets strong, sassy, sexy Baker and she really helps him see that women are so much more than he once thought.

This is an incredibly strong debut and one that should not be missed by anyone looking for a raw, honest, and unflinching read. It’s heavy on the sex and on the violence, just like the title implies and Mesrobian handles every element of the story masterfully. I will be highly recommending this one to anyone who will listen.


You can read all of my reviews at Alluring Reads.
Profile Image for Stay Fetters.
2,014 reviews118 followers
March 27, 2016
The main reason why I picked to read this was because of the title. The Exploited made a song with the same name and today I had an Exploited dance party at my house. Punk is still alive.
Starts off with Evan being a womanizing teen until an incident changes his life forever. He would hook up with any girl that would say yes. And soon after, he would forget all about her.
New school in North Carolina, he meets Collette and they start a secret relationship. Things goes from secret to brutal and it changes their lives forever.
Small towns can sometimes improve your life and thats what happens. Secrets are revealed, people change and love grows founder.
Slow moving and not as engaging as the title suggests. With hope and promise of new beginnings, it doesn't leave you feeling anything for the characters.
Profile Image for Victoria.
40 reviews8 followers
June 10, 2013
WOW! WOW! WOW! I finished this two days ago, but I have not been able to write this until now. I was left raw. There were times in the book when I cried, I yelled, I laughed, I sympathized, I wanted to punch his father, I wanted to punch him, I...just wow! It has been a while since I was left feeling like this about a book. It was like a slap to the face, and I loved it!

I received Sex & Violence as an ARC via NetGalley via Carolrhoda LAB.
Profile Image for Elana Arnold.
Author 24 books932 followers
September 27, 2013
I don't generally write reviews. As an author myself, it feels icky. But this book... damn.
Profile Image for Isamlq.
1,578 reviews713 followers
October 29, 2013
It’s more than coping, though the same makes up a big portion of this. Sure, half of this is about where he’s going but the other half is where he’s been; a lot of this is how the latter’s shaped (redirected?) the former, so that there are stretches of Evan figuring out who he was, where he is, and why; but there’s the unexpected given ‘new place’ and his past left long ways behind… only that’s not what happens, or not just what happens; because in the meantime, we’ve others’ pasts/presents/futures crossing with his.

On the past: who his mother was/is to his father. On his present: how he is his father’s son, all “economical” but not just that. On the future: Baker, Jim, Tom, etcetera with all their Last Chance Summers. With all that going on, thins could have ended up scattered, yet things tie up anyway, concluding in such a way that’s got me (may be?) hopeful and not just for him…OK, mainly for him.

But me loving the story’s progression toward that ending has me skipping some of its very well-done aspects. Like how refreshing and accurate a depiction “getting better” is given in this one. It isn’t one step forward then another. For him, it’s stepping out of a comfort zone (slowly), then in other instances, getting dragged back into old patterns. Nothing happens in a snap... nothing A. B.C. And that’s great because each moment with him telling the story had me believing that he’s not just some made up kid by in some author’s head. Yes, that’s even with the tragic point at which the story starts… mainly because he wasn’t all tragic all the time.

Which brings me to yet another thing that kept me reading: there’s the fear, anger, and the guilt; there’s also whole thing on responsibility/blame; but there’s the day-to-day regular stuff of “new kid” problems, of strutting your muscles and feeling like a douche in doing so, or thinking others douches in doing so.. The crabby, nitpicky but funny way he lays it out for me to laugh along with. Heck, even the even the ogling and boy-speak was done in a non-douche way; instead both were half-apologetic and half-honest, as in “it is what it is and I do what I do… because.

But this got heavy and not just for the usual reasons because there’s this new perspective for him, as he contrasts how he was to where he is; as he contemplates over what he and his father were, but more importantly what they could be. And even heavier still, him FINALLY knowing first hand what friends do, and what friends are. It’s different because it’s not limited to what’s obvious. In the telling, his voice is fresh; there’s an accuracy to how things are laid out, not crude (at least not often) but more basic, not flower-y or prettified, just very as is. All those relationships that he allows himself balances out the tragic; there’s angst and jealousy but there’s also the humor and (re) connections made. Basically, things don’t just pivot on that one event.

Profile Image for Zemira Warner.
1,569 reviews1,036 followers
July 4, 2013
4.5 stars

I was sitting here for 41 minutes, staring at the screen, trying to figure out what to say about this book. What to say to make people want to buy it and read it? Should I beg? Please, please, read it!

The story starts of with Evan being a know-it-all and a ladies man. He knows how to get a girl to sleep with him and one day it all goes terribly wrong when . After that Evan can't even shower because everything brings him flashbacks. His father moves him for the nth time to a small city of Pearl Lake where he's forced to meet new people and heal.

Even though Evan starts of as one of those arrogant guys who think they're better than everyone else, he quickly changes and we see his another side. He still thinks about sex a lot and he's still mentally undressing girls.

Female authors don't usually write in a male perspective because most of the time it doesn't seem authentic. But while reading Sex and Violence I felt like the author did portray Evan as a real teenager, not something she thinks a horny teenage kid sounds like. She also did a wonderful job with other characters. At times it was like she put something of her own life in the story, some small detail or an opinion about certain things, like hating small dogs.

While I was reading I though to myself. Trish Doller, the author of Something Like Normal would like this book. And then I saw she wrote a blurb for it. So weird. I'm glad she read it and all you people who loved Something Like Normal, pick up Sex and Violence when it gets out! You won't regret it!

This review was also posted on my blog, YA Fanatic.

Profile Image for Alanna Ault.
1 review
September 20, 2013
Carrie, you have outdone yourself! I don't normally read regular fiction, but this one really caught my attention because of its unabashed telling of themes normally skirted around in YA. It was more than anything else, an imaginable story. Evan's voice was right on par with every teenage boy, and I loved him! What a cutie with his Elmo cupcakes and lake baths. The amount of swearing was also quite refreshing, his language was one I could relate to. The story has some pretty dark elements to it, yet while reading I didn't feel overwhelmed by them. The events flowed nicely together and I enjoyed reading his letters, they weren't too mushy or anything. I did have an issue with how many times he talks about his dick, like yeah, we get it already, but I guess that's guys for you. I couldn't quite "get" Baker, and I would've liked to see more happen with her, but in the end, I think her being a snapshot point in his life was exactly right for the story. It's not critical that she be thoroughly explained. But overall what I love about this book is its honesty. Even and Pearl Lake exist and no one can convince me otherwise!
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,205 followers
May 11, 2013
I think this is going to piss a lot of readers off. But that's the point. Also, it is at times funny and then completely heartbreaking, and there is no shying away from either the sex nor the violence. And I'd never quite made the connection in this way until this book.

Longer review to come.
Profile Image for Asheley T..
1,273 reviews119 followers
November 9, 2013
This review is one of the hardest I probably will write because what I really want to do, rather than write it and post it online, is just sit down with everyone and just TALK ABOUT IT. There is so much depth to this book, to this amazing main character, and to this fantastic secondary cast of characters that I feel like any review that I write (however long it is) just won't be enough nor do the book any justice.

Read my full Three-Things Review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.

The first thing you need to know is this:
Evan Carter is the New Guy at his school.

Evan skips chapel at his boarding school one day to find Collette Holmander waiting for him in his dorm - girls aren't allowed! - so he lets her into his room. At first, it seems that Collette is only there as a messenger for another girl - and perhaps she is - but it isn't long before the two have this super-quick and super-steamy kiss. And it's enough for Evan and Collette to begin regularly skipping chapel to meet and engage in some, ahem, activities.

Evan is one of those guys, you see. Being the New Guy at several schools all over the United States over the past few years certainly has had its advantages: Evan is like a novelty, a toy. He's shiny, something for the girls to want. This certainly pleases Evan, and this is again the case at this newest school. There are girls here that want him as well. One, for example, Farrah, is cute enough - but to Evan the looks don't really matter. All Evan wants is "Girls Who [Would] Say Yes" and by YES, he doesn't mean yes to hanging out or sharing their phone numbers - he wants naked or naked enough.

YEP. Evan is THAT kind of guy.

And apparently so is Collette, Farrah's friend and messenger. Because while Collette continues to meet Evan, she has no qualms about going a little further, a little further, a little further every time she sees Evan.

Evan never even makes it as far as Farrah. He's happy enough with Collette, thankyouverymuch. She's a "Yes" girl, you see.

The second thing you need to know is this:
There are some people who aren't pleased with the attention Evan is giving Collette NOR the attention Farrah is giving Evan.

Evan's roommate Patrick "The Rammer" Ramsey used to date Collette - they didn't end on great terms, but he has some sort of unusual attachment to her even though she is over him completely. And Farrah has an on-again/off-again boyfriend (Tate Kerrigan) that she's been dating for a long time - apparently they are currently "off" but Tate doesn't really seem to understand this. Even though Tate thinks it's cool if HE dates other girls when he and Farrah are apart, he doesn't want anyone else touching what he considers his. (JERK.)

Well, Patrick and Tate both have issues with Evan. All Evan is doing is being his regular "get-some" self - but only with Collette, mind you. He hasn't even considered Farrah! Unfortunately, both Patrick and Tate decide to teach Evan a message in the form of an extremely brutal, life-threatening beating that puts him in the hospital for days. Evan ends up requiring surgery and he actually could have died.

Evan is immediately taken out of school and his father decides to move from Charlotte, NC to Pearl Lake, Minnesota with him - which is a really great thing for Evan. But it's also a scary thing for Evan because it forces him to really examine himself and confront some big issues in his life - stuff that he'd probably never have even noticed or been willing to change had this hateful crime not occurred.

The third thing you need to know is this:

Evan is in Minnesota for the summer with his father. While he's there, a bazillion things happen to him and for him. He begins to have a closer relationship with his father, which is something that he had been missing out on. His father spends time with him and teaches him things like boating, which is kind of cool. Also, his father makes him go to therapy, which at first makes him extremely angry. However, through these therapy sessions Evan is able to face some serious issues about what happened and how it has changed him - his intense anxiety and fear, and his inability to shake it. His therapist gives him an assignment - write a letter to someone each week - and it is through these letters (unsent, if he wishes) that he really gives his true, deep, inner feelings and we are able to learn who Evan is at his core.

It is also during this time in Minnesota that we see Evan build relationships for the first time, both with adults and with people his own age. Remember that as a womanizing teenage sex-crazed boy, Evan was never establishing relationships with the girls he slept with - he often deleted their phone numbers right away and never saw them again, and he always deleted their phone numbers when he moved from school to school. He rarely had friends because he was the New Guy so frequently. But here, in Minnesota, he is basically forced to spend a summer around this group of people that have known each other for long periods of time and this allows him to learn to trust some of these people that already trust each other. They welcome him without question, with open arms and he isn't used to this - but it is really nice. He also begins to trust some of the adults that are allowed into his life: his uncle, his boss, different people. Evan's entire life changes in Minnesota.

Minnesota is a super-quick life lesson in Evan/for Evan, summarized and packed into a short summer, and it is really great. I loved it.


Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian is absolutely brilliant - she nailed it and I don't know how she did it. I have so many things to say and I know that I'll forget over half of them. Where to start, where to start...

First of all, you know me - you know that I absolutely, without fail LOVE male point-of-view books, particularly contemporary YA. I tend to really feel for these boys, particularly the broken ones, and MAN did Evan fit this mold. YES, he was a bit of a scumbag for the way he handled himself with girls, but you know what? I never really started out hating this character, which is really odd, don't you think? I mean, he is EVERYTHING WE ARE SUPPOSED TO FIND UNLIKABLE, right? But somehow, I felt compassionate toward him from the beginning. Why is this? It felt a little odd but I'm only being honest. Perhaps it is because he was lacking a great relationship with his parents? His mother no longer living, his father placed him in boarding schools because of the amount of traveling required for his job. It's true that his father called often to check in with him and to check on him, and to make sure that his needs were met, but in truth - how close can you be with your parent with you are in a constant state of upheaval, moving around the country and always in a live-in boarding school? To me, it was evident that Evan was looking for some kind of relationship in his many broken hook-ups with these girls, and he just wasn't finding it. To top it all off, Evan was basically friendless - I mean, he had his roommate Patrick, but we see how well that turned out, don't we? Patrick beat the ever-living crap out of him and left him on the floor of a bathroom because he messed with his ex-girlfriend, whom he affectionately called "firecrotch." Patrick is NOT really friend material. So, yeah, I felt compassion for Evan.

This surprised me, but I went with it. And I think it played out well for me. Because...

...it served well once Evan made it to Minnesota. That boy felt so lost after what happened to him. He felt so many things, actually. Talk about violated? And the irony of that feeling, right? After Evan's behavior toward girls is really just violation, to be honest.

ALSO. Again, I say you know me, and you know how much I love character growth and development because I throw it at you all the time. Well, Evan had it. In the beginning, Evan was a boy that hated himself and acted on it in a very (what I consider) stereotypical and teenage-boy way (it's true that not all teen boys act this way, so no hate-comments, okay?). My point here is that over the course of the book, Evan has a remarkable change in his perspective on life, on relationships, on himself, on basically everything. Interestingly enough, by the end of the book I still think he has plenty to work on but the growth is so remarkable that you can't argue that he is a changed guy.

Part of his growth is due to therapy, sure. Part of his growth is due to spending time with his father and uncle, sure. Part of his growth is due to learning how to form relationships with people, sure. But it would be awful to leave out THE GIRL. While romance isn't the big issue in this book, part of Evan's growth is also due to Baker, the girl next door. The actual girl next door. Evan learns how to relate to girls in a normal way, a healthy way, and it's SO GREAT. There are some scenes that made me feel like "OH MY HEART."

Gosh, there is so much in here worth talking about: there is a whole "Summer of Last Chances" story line that Evan takes on with his new friends and is so, so neat and lovely, there is the realization that Evan has of what a normal and healthy sexual relationship is and how he wishes for it, there is Evan learning to defend himself, there is ALSO Evan never really completely losing that part of himself that was there in the beginning (which I think is fantastic because I hope he holds on to it enough that he never reverts back to it), and there are a million other discussion-worthy THINGS.

Also noteworthy? This male POV is completely believable, never cheesy, and written by a female debut author. WHAT? I KNOW. It's really fantastic. It's witty and snarky (which, if you follow @CarrieMesrobian on twitter, is very true to her own voice WHICH I LOVED). And it's pretty scary to think that there are guys out there like this - not only because HELLO they are doing things like this with girls! but also because they need help. ALSO, there are guys out there like Patrick and Tate, and I'm not sure which of these guys is scarier.

I highly recommend Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian to fans of YA Contemporary with Realistic Fiction and Issues, those who love male points-of-view, those that really love character growth, and those that love standalones. I absolutely loved this book. I realize that the cover and title may be off-putting for some readers, but I ask you not to worry about that and just pick it up and read it if this sounds like something you may be interested in. It's a fantastic character study into a very realistic part of the population because we all know people like Evan exist. I will most assuredly re-read this one. I will discuss this one with others that have read it. And I will be watching and waiting for Carrie Mesrobian's next book.

I love it when an author isn't afraid to push the envelope, try new things, or say what needs to be said. This is certainly the case with this book. This is a risky story and reminds me a little bit of this debut YA Contemporary book - not because of content but because these authors get in there and write these stories and own them. Some readers will read a scene or two and draw up in themselves, but isn't that what is really wonderful about YA Contemporary? That it makes us uncomfortable and want to talk about these issues? What about when young people read it? What about if it ends up in the hands of someone like Evan or Collette or Patrick "The Rammer" Ramsey?

Well played, Carrie Mesrobian.
Profile Image for Kat Montemayor.
Author 9 books223 followers
February 25, 2018
4/5 Mentally messed up stars.

Evan has a very casual attitude toward sex until a jealous ex and his buddy beat him into unconsciousness for making out with the jealous ex's girl. He is left deaf in one ear, absent a spleen, and has a sprained wrist. This is a wake-up call for Evan and his usually absentee father, who scoops him out of the boarding school where the assault occurred, and moves him to his childhood cabin on a lake in Minnesota. He makes friends that are male, which is a first, because in the past his dad moves him around so often, he doesn't stay in one place long enough to make friends. Usually, he just hooks up with "yes" girls. His dad makes him go to therapy to talk about his issues.

I enjoyed this book and read it all in a day and a half. However, I found myself shaking my head at some of Evan's choices. It seemed for much of the book that he hadn't learned a thing from his horrific experience, and destined to repeat the mistake again. I kind of wanted him to get a refund from his therapist. Still, he comes across as a likable guy.

It was an interesting read, albeit a different one.
Profile Image for Tori.
2,805 reviews476 followers
October 9, 2013
Originally posted at http://smexybooks.com/2013/10/review-...

Seventeen year old Evan Carter has never considered the consequences of having random sex. From the age of fifteen, Evan has used sex as a way to connect and combat the loneliness of having a father who’s never there and being forced to continuously move. He purposely selects girls who are “not normal.” Girls who will let you sleep with them on the first date. When Evan messes with the wrong girl, he finds himself the victim of violence that results in his father taking him back to his hometown of Pearl Lake, Minnesota. Floundering in a sea of guilt, remorse, sorrow, and fear, Evan finds his way out the darkness and learns to forgive himself.

Carrie Mesrobian’s debut, Sex & Violence, is a thought provoking coming of age story that features a male protagonist placed in a traditional female role as the victim of sexual assault. And make no bones about it, though the attack was not sexually based, it was sexually motivated. Evan was punished for touching something that was thought to belong to someone else. And he pays for it in many ways. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Presented in a no-nonsense conversational style, Evan tells us his story in a dispassionate voice that doesn’t ask for forgiveness or understanding; he merely wants us to listen. Plenty of humor and dry wit helps to balance the severity of the subject matter presented. Mesrobian does a wonderful job narrating Evan’s voice as he deals with the same issues many females face daily. This is especially poignant when heard from a male perspective. Issues concerning his body, looks, attitude, and sexuality.

From the moment Evan and his father arrive at Pearl Lake, both begin a slow yet empowering transformation. Before the attack, Evan was self assured, cocky, and comfortable in his own skin. He felt no guilt over his perceived peccadillos. After the attack, Evan finds himself unable to go forward. He’s angry, frightened, sad, and guilty. Remorse shapes his life with fine edged scalpel. He begins to remember every girl he slept with, wondering if the attack was merely a form of justice for his past behavior. Evan’s father is in no better shape. Absent both physically and emotionally in Evan’s life since his wife passed away, he is fighting his own demons; drowning in guilt over the attack and helpless in how to help Evan heal from it.

Evan and his father begin to make connections between themselves and others. Evan meets various people in this small town who show him that everyone has a complicated history. He’s taught that mistakes are made but you can learn from them and move on. He learns that sometimes the choices we make aren’t the right ones but we are not bad people for making them. And Evan needs these connections these life lessons. Ties that can ground him and help him rebuild what he lost. One strong tie is the letters he writes to Colette, the catalyst that lead to his beating. Writing as a therapeutic measure suggested by his therapist, Evan learns to take responsibility for his actions while learning to let go of the guilt and self recriminations.

What called to me in here was the strength and diversity of the characters. Well rounded and vibrant in their voices, particularly the female characters. We see a kaleidoscope of sexuality from many different viewpoints. A girl who does everything but to a mature woman who is comfortable in her sexuality and the choices she makes. Baker was my favorite character. She represents two firsts for Evan. A romantic interest that he cannot bang and forget and a female friend. I loved Baker’s strength. A curious mixture of sexual empowerment and vulnerability, she herself is at a crossroads but refuses to bend her principles in order to make others happy. She too is attracted to Evan but knows they have no future at this time and tries to avoid any unpleasant encumbrances.

The ending does leave the reader with some questions, but it makes sense as this is Evan’s story. We won’t know what happens until he’s able to face those moments in his life and in actuality, it really doesn’t matter. While I would not call this a romance, I won’t hesitate to say that it is filled with love. Family, friendship, and a small romance towards the end gives readers hope that Evan is well on his way to healing. If you’re looking for something different in YA, then I recommend adding Carrie Mesrobian’s Sex & Violence to your bookshelf of keepers

Overall Rating: B+
Profile Image for Jen Ryland.
1,430 reviews899 followers
November 10, 2013
Check out the full review, and an author interview on my blog, YA Romantics

I had decided to pass on Sex & Violence, because I'm overloaded with stuff to read. Also because the title put me off a little. It's an intimidating, in-your-face kind of title. Then I read the summary (I'm not completely superficial!) and thought that sounded pretty intense too. But Heather @ The Flyleaf Review was really enthusiastic about Sex & Violence, so I gave it a try.

I'm really glad I did. Yes, there is intense stuff in this book (a brutal assault and plenty of language) but it turns out that Sex & Violence is anything but an in-your-face story. It's a very understated, beautifully crafted account of both recovery and self-discovery. And yes, I see a lot of stuff like that as a reader, but not as much focused on recovery and not usually from a guy's POV. It was an interesting story that gave me a lot to think about.

Evan's father has a job that drags the two of them all over the place, from town to town and school to school. As a result, Evan is used to being the new kid, which actually works in his favor when it comes to girls. Girls, as Evan has discovered, love anything new and shiny. Evan starts secretly hooking up with Colette. She seems like just the right girl to get involved with, but ends up being the wrong one, and Evan ends up in the hospital, seriously injured.

This part of the book is a mere nineteen pages. The rest of the story deals with the aftermath of the assault, with Evan moving to a family cabin in Minnesota with his father, staying put for the first time in his life. Amidst the stillness of Pearl Lake, Evan will come to terms with what happened to him, but also with his life -- how he relates to others, how he approaches relationships, how he fits into his family. His journey is not a straightforward one, and I liked that.

Yes, sex and violence are two major themes of the book, but there are many others: nature, intimacy, motion vs. stillness, authenticity vs. superficiality. It's a very interesting story that touches on a whole bunch of issues. It's a very different take on recovery from other books I've read. If you're a reader who likes contemporary fiction that's gritty but also thoughtful and complex, definitely give this a try.
Profile Image for Tara.
598 reviews3 followers
June 9, 2013
This is not the book to read if you are looking for something uplifting and happy. And I guess the title kinda gives that away.
To begin with, I didn't really feel anything for Evan. He was just a guy who liked having sex with girls and whose father moved him around to lots of new schools. But then he got the shit kicked out of him, and he changed. Throughout most of the book I just felt an overwhelming sadness for Evan. He was going through a traumatic time after what happened to him but also, it really came to light that he didn't have anyone. His father was absent so much of the time, his mother was dead and because of all of the moving that him and his father did, he didn't have any friends. He had no-one.
After his father brought him to Pearl Lake for the summer to try to heal, it was refreshing to see Evan starting to form relationships with other people, to see him start to trust people and to also trust himself to do the right thing. It didn't end with rainbows and good times, but that wouldn't have suited the story. I did like the way it ended though and it made me feel that finally, Evan might have started to be kind to himself.
Thanks to NetGalley for the copy of this book.
Profile Image for RedRedtheycallmeRed.
1,637 reviews34 followers
April 6, 2014
I checked out this Kindle book from my local library, the provocative title captured my interest and the premise looked promising.

I wasn't as wowed as I thought I'd be, while it was good, it lacked the emotional punch I was expecting. The story dragged at times (especially during the Minnesota history lessons), I found my mind wandering.

I guess I was expecting more of an emotional journey from Evan. Instead, I read about a summer filled with him making new friends, smoking weed, drinking and having sex. His relationship with his father is almost non-existent, and while that does have some resolution, it wasn't enough for me. The best parts of the book were his letters to Collette, he's reflective and somewhat remorseful.

The ending (rather abruptly) fills in some blanks about his uncle Soren and "the cupcake lady from Tacoma" that are hinted at throughout the entire book, but their explanations felt like they were mostly an afterthought. Was the cupcake lady story supposed to justify Evan's actions toward women? If that was the goal, it really missed the mark.

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