While it certainly contains the titular activities, this book isn't nearly as sensationalistic as its title might imply. More than anything, Sex & Violence is a fantastically-voiced, layered character study. The description "layered" applies to narrator-protagonist Evan, the other characters in the book, and their relationships; and it applies to the meanings of, manifestations of, and connections between sex and violence that Evan gradually comes to grasp in unstated, embodied ways. This is a depiction of real people and life, complex and complicated and lived.
Evan moves through life adrift from any real connections. Since his mom died, his remote dad moves them from place to place before he can make friends--and what's the point since they'll move on before long anyway. His one consolation is the easy, casual sex he's become an expert at finding and leaving. Until he and an adventurous partner are beaten to within an inch of their lives by a couple of jealous brutes. Now Evan is scarred, scared, and broken. His dad moves them to his childhood cabin on a lake in Minnesota for a summer of recovery, where a group of peers takes him in and makes him one of their own. The road to self-acceptance and trust is a long one, though, and it takes Evan much time and many experiences before he is able to figure out who he is and think about moving forward again.
This book is masterfully written; honest, realistic, and believable; sometimes brutal, sometimes tender, always moving; engaging and entertaining and readable even as it's heavy and substantial and meaningful. This is good literature.
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