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Sex and Violence: An Unlikely Coming to Be (guest post by author Carrie Mesrobian)


I didn’t set out to write a book about a sex-focused boy who gets nearly killed in a vicious assault.

I didn’t set out to write about a boy at all.
This book started with me being annoyed. Annoyed at the female heroines in lots of YA books.
I was tired of the YA girl who:
          Didn’t know she was beautiful
          Was saving her first sex for ‘the right boy’ or ‘true love’
          Was quirky or an outsider
          Thought sex, drugs and other risk-taking was a big giant hairy deal
          Wore combat boots and thrift store clothes
          Had sidekick friends who were more interesting than she was
So the story started with a girl named Baker Trieste. Originally, she was going to be on some kind of quest, defeat something supernatural. Only, I don’t believe in anything supernatural, though I love reading stories about that stuff. I sucked at imagining another paranormal world or whatever. So the story just became about these kids kicking around a lake the last summer before college.
Baker Trieste is a smart girl. She’s pretty. She’s an extrovert.  She’s girly. She wears clothes from the mall and bikinis.
But. Baker Trieste also smokes pot, drinks to get drunk, loves history, and doesn’t entertain too many dreams about being with her high school boyfriend after they both set off for different colleges. She’s implemented an open relationship, in fact, to deal with their eventual break-up, thinking this will make things easier. And in tandem with that, she decides it will be a Summer Of Last Chances, where she and her friends will all get to do all the things they’ve never done before. Her dream? To explore Story Island, in the middle of Pearl Lake.
So, why did Evan Carter, serial pervert and man-whore, come to barge into the story and knock Baker out as narrator?
It was an accident. I wanted to a new-comer to the Pearl Lake setting and I wanted to get to know him. So I wrote in his first-person POV for a while and it was unbelievably fun. I have never imagined myself into a guy’s brain before and it was such a juicy set of problems to solve. Being in a guy’s head when I was a teenager would have been so damn helpful, you know? My friends and I spent way too much time trying to figure guys out: Did they like us? Did they only like us when they were drunk? Did they only want sex or did they really like us as people? Did they just need a ride to a party? Were they flirting or just being nice? Was it our outfits? Our hair? Our too-small or too-big boobs? 
Being Evan for me was like being given the key to a car I’d always wanted to drive. Or a door I’d always wanted to open. And putting him next to Baker, a girl who embodied many of my own teenage qualities as well as ones I’d love girls her age to have, was a pleasure. He was so lucky to know her, to get to be in her company. 
If I want to be really dorky and analytical about it, Baker is Sex. Sex the way I’d want it to be. Good, and fun, and important, yes, but also just another experience in life. And Evan? He might think he’s Sex, but really, he’s Violence. He’s a victim of violence, he’s an inheritor of a violent family history, and he even tries to become a perpetrator of violence. One might argue that the pain he’s caused the girls he has sex with and then deletes from his phone is another kind of violence, emotional violence, a kind of dehumanizing objectification.
Now it sounds like I’ve written a tacky love story; that Sex meets Violence and they live happily ever after. I could have very well done that. This is why we have editors, after all. Thank you, Universe, for creating Andrew Karre.
In many ways, for me, this book is not just Evan’s story, or a boy’s story about sex and violence. It’s also the story of young women, how they come of age, how they contend with sex and violence, too, in different ways. For a character as obtuse and clueless and shitty as Evan Carter is, at least at the story’s opening, I couldn’t bear for him to meet up with girls that were weak, clichéd, or fantastical representations of Womanhood. I needed for him to see women as complex and dazzling and broken and brilliant, all in one. He needed that, as a character, and I needed that, as his creator.
And I think we all need that, as readers.
 
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About Carrie Mesrobian
Carrie Mesrobian is a native Minnesotan. A former high school Spanish instructor, Carrie currently teaches at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her writing has appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Brain, Child magazine, and Calyx. Her debut young adult novel, Sex & Violence (Carolrhoda LAB) received stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Her second novel, Perfectly Good White Boy, will be released in fall of 2014. She currently lives with her husband (Adrian), daughter (Matilda) and dog (Pablo), all of whom are pretty excellent.  Find out more than you probably want to know here: www.carriemesrobian.com 

Comments

  1. I never made the connection of Baker as Sex and Evan as Violence, but that is absolutely brilliant.

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