I heard about this book for the first time when I looked at the short list for YALSA’s Morris Awards. This is an award for the best début novel by a YA author, and one of my favorite awards. I like to read the short list books each year, preferably before the winner is announced. So, this was the first one that I read this year. I hadn’t heard of it before, so all my preconceived notions came from past experiences with Morris Award titles and the title.

My preconceptions: Often, Morris Award titles tend towards serious topics. I have read books on the Holocaust, depression, death. I have read a book or two that took me awhile to get over before I could pick up another book. The title: Sex & Violence, made me think that there would be graphic scenes in this book, potential triggers, and other unpleasant things.

The reality: This book dealt with a horrific event without becoming too graphic. It dealt with the aftermath, more than the event itself. The few details that are shared are done quickly, without too much detail. Evan, our main character and narrator, is a bit of a dirt-bag. His mother died when he was younger, his father is distant, and Evan spends much of his youth moving around the country, enrolled in a variety of boarding schools. Because he is never in one place for long, he doesn’t think about how his actions have lasting consequences. He has a certain type of girl he prefers, the ones who say yes. Then he moves on, to another school and another group of girls.

After the incident, his father and Evan move to a cabin in Minnesota, where most of the book takes place. While Evan recovers, him and his father build relationships with the other people who live on the lake and have what appears to be a “normal” life for the summer. However, it takes Evan quite awhile to begin adjusting to the idea of normal.

I wish that I had had more time to sit and read this book for long stretches. Expecting the worst at every turn of the page, I put it down often. While the book didn’t get as graphic as I expected, it dealt with the issues very well. Evan doesn’t have a sudden moment where he stops being a dirt-bag. The friends that he makes over the summer have their own issues, and none of them are what they seem to Evan at first.

Title: Sex & Violence
Author: Carrie Mesrobian
Pages: 294
Age level: YA
Illustrated: No
Who I would give this book to: Anyone in high school or college. There’s a lot to think about with unintended consequences and the inability to predict others’ reactions to your own actions.
Setting: Minnesota
Favorite Character: Baker. She’s not a prude, but she isn’t over the top about it. Also, she’s a bit of a history geek.
Favorite Moment: I really enjoyed Evan’s letters to Collette.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Book Source: Library