I received this book for free from Young Adult Books Central, Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books on September 1st 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Format: eARC, Hardcover
Source: Young Adult Books Central, Edelweiss
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Will Caynes never has been good with girls. At seventeen, he’s still waiting for his first kiss. He’s certainly not expecting it to happen in a drunken make-out session with his best friend, Angus. But it does and now Will’s conflicted—he knows he likes girls, but he didn’t exactly hate kissing a guy.
Then Will meets Brandy, a cute and easy-to-talk-to sophomore. He’s totally into her too—which proves, for sure, that he’s not gay. So why does he keep hooking up with Angus on the sly?
Will knows he can’t keep seeing both of them, but besides his new job in a diner, being with Brandy and Angus are the best parts of his whole messed-up life. His divorced parents just complicate everything. His father, after a series of half-baked business ventures and endless house renovations, has started drinking again. And his mom is no help—unless loading him up with a bunch of stuff he doesn’t need plus sticking him with his twin half-sisters counts as parenting. He’s been bouncing between his mom and dad for years, and neither one feels like home.
Deciding who to love, who to choose, where to live—whichever way Will goes, someone will get hurt. Himself probably the most.
I was actually hoping to be the black sheep amongst my friends when it came to Cut Both Ways. I wanted to be that lone wolf, singing praises for this book. So it’s unfortunate that I have to agree with everyone else and say this book was terrible.
I knew going in that this book involved cheating, so I was ready for that. And I’m generally okay with unlikable characters, which is what Will essentially is. But I was really looking forward to seeing how Mesrobian handled sexuality and the boxes society likes to place it: straight, bi, gay, etc. I wanted to see that exploration and see a character struggle to understand himself and how he identified. I also wondered if this was a book that could then challenge my own views on sexuality.
It did none of this.
Cut Both Ways is the classic example of how marketing and publicity has the tendency to sell the public on a certain kind of book, when it’s completely NOT that kind of book. Sure, Cut Both Ways does feature a main character, struggling with sexual identity, but it never really goes anywhere. The main conflict of the story isn’t even about that or the cheating. It’s about Will’s broken family: his alcoholic, hoarding dad, his (in his mind) overbearing mom and his ability to run away from any and all problems.
The only sexual exploration in Cut Both Ways is Will feeling guilty about sleeping with Angus when he has a girlfriend or having sex with his girlfriend when he’s feeling sorry for himself. There is inner monologue about if Will is gay or not, but it never goes further than that. He never considers that he could like both, that it could be okay to enjoy both. In fact, Will uses sex as a form of escapism from the main plot of the novel: dealing with his dad’s issues. For some unknown reason, his father finishing his house remodel project seemed to be the central conflict of the novel, while everything else took a backseat.
The characters were no better, mostly serving as pawns in the story with no real purpose for their existence outside of forcing Will to react. The only character that did seem to be semi-fleshed out was Will himself, but I’d wager he’s a hard character to relate to (unless you happen to be the specific reader this book was aimed at, and I really don’t know what kind of reader that would be). The way he treats his girlfriend, Brandy, was infuriating, cheating aside, and he showed no signs of wanting to improve it or at least break up with her to let her move on. No, he decided that cheating on her with Angus and having her around to fuck whenever he felt horny or sad was better.
A part of me wasn’t sure what to make of Will and Brandy’s relationship. It developed shortly after Angus kisses Will, so initially I thought that Will hooking up with Brandy was a way for him to “not feel gay.” But then he decides to willingly be her boyfriend and engage in relationship activities despite not really caring about her. And it just killed me that he could not show an ounce of feeling for her whenever she told him she care about him or even when she tells him she loves him. Nothing. He gives her nothing.
Another thing that really bothered me was Will’s lack consideration for the trouble he could get Brandy in. I had no issue with Will constantly talking about how horny he was, but when you’ve already gotten your girlfriend in trouble by her Aunt for having sex under her roof (and she’s warned you to be careful because pregnancy is a real thing that happens!) and you proceed to start feeling her up right on the porch in daylight, expecting sex right there, something is wrong with you. But let’s not stop there! Because, of course, Will is so horny that he has to have it whenever nature pounds on the door like it’s the po-po, so hurried sex outdoors without a condom sounds great. Just awesome. >insert pregnancy scare<
Angus only seemed slightly bothered that Will was cheating on Brandy and was more than wiling to be used for sex. To be honest, we really don’t know much about how Angus feels about anything since he barely had any lines in the book and only really shows up conveniently when Will is thinking about sex.
SPOILERS from this point forward because I’m angry and I have to vent a little.
As awful as all that sounds, the Cut Both Ways still had a chance to redeem itself, or so I thought. There was still the ending that could bring at least some of these issues to a resolution. But no, that would have been too much work.
So here’s the ending in a nut shell: right on the cusp of a climax, it just ends. Nothing is addressed. And just when I thought the book was finally going to dive into some of the anger-inducing issues, I flip to the next page and it’s the Author’s Note.
I wanted to scream.
For a book to attempt a heavy issue and then outright refuses to deal with any of it during the book nor at the end, I was shocked and felt cheated. Does Will finally break up with Brandy? Does he decide to instead stop sleeping with Angus? Does Brandy ever find out will is cheating on her? Does Will come to any sort of sexual self-acceptance? What happens now that Will’s step-dad has revealed himself as a homophobe? How does his un-intentional coming out affect his relationship with his mother, father and sisters? Does Will ever admit to Angus that he is in love with him? DOES ANYTHING GET DEALT WITH?
The only thing interesting about Cut Both Ways was the author’s choice to leave out the word “bi-sexual” in the story to allow the reader to “contemplate what his is and what he might be.” While I was reading, it did seem kinda odd that Will never considered the possibility of being bi-sexual. It’s just that in this day in age, with more people coming out and being supportive of others, that it wouldn’t have not once crossed his mind. I not asking for Will to have identified himself in the story, just that I think it’s odd he wouldn’t have *thought* about it. And again, all this would have been nice in theory if Will even TRIED to deal with anything or if the ending didn’t end right after the climax. GAH.
Just an overall disappointing read that was a complete waste of time.
Finished Copy was received via YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review.