Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian (Harper Teen, 1 September 2015)
I hate to say this, but CUT BOTH WAYS was probably one of the biggest disappointments of the year so far for me. From its gorgeous cover to its bisexual protag, I thought this book would be perfect for me. And I adored Mesrobian's first book, so I thought I would love this too. But I really, really did not.
Will Caynes still hasn't had his first kiss at seventeen. When it happens, it's not what he expected at all. It's with his best friend, Angus, who is gay. But Will can't be gay, right? Then he runs into Brandy, a cute sophomore at his high school, who's babysitting next door. They get talking, and soon, Will and Brandy are making out and having sex. Will likes her a lot. He definitely isn't gay. But even as he and Brandy start going out, Will still can't stop hooking up with Angus. Will's divorced parents are complicating the situation even more as he doesn't feel like he can talk to either of them, and his dad has started drinking again. And whichever way you look at it, all this can only end badly for Will.
Nothing happens in this book. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Will has sex with Brandy. Will has sex with Angus. Rinse. Repeat. Will has lots and lots of sex. The end. Oh, also, Will gets his first job working at a restaurant, plus there's some stuff about Will's alcoholic dad and his latest house renovation project. But it wasn't nearly enough to sustain a whole book.
Honestly, I was so bored. This book took me a whole month to read. It dragged and dragged and I was like, "IS ANYTHING ACTUALLY GOING TO HAPPEN." And nope, nothing actually happened. I couldn't connect with Will either and we spend entirely too much time just inside his head. AND YET I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE THINKS ABOUT ANYTHING. Because he has no emotion. He's like a zombie robot.
I wanted to read this book because I knew it had a bisexual guy as its protag, and those are rare in YA. Bisexual characters are lacking in general. But this book was so frustrating as bisexual representation, because Will has no idea what is going on. He still has no idea by the end of the book that bisexuality is a thing that exists and that he might be bisexual. His life is a mess. He is a cheater. I knew going on from the blurb that he would be a cheater but it irked even more than I thought it would because he's so... incredibly selfish. Everything revolves around him. He barely even seems to care what either Brandy or Angus feels. ALL HE DOES IS HAVE SEX WITH THEM. They don't seem to talk about anything important ever! There's an unusual amount of sex, especially for an LGBTQ YA book, which might be a good thing – but the sex was often not safe. No one seemed to worry about STIs, only pregnancy. It was troubling.
And because bisexual representation is so lacking, it makes me sad that this is what we get. A story about a really confused guy who just has sex with other people without really seeming to think about the consequences. Might this be the reality for some bisexual people? Of course! But I think even if this is the reality for some people, I would have appreciated some kind of resolution at the kind, where Will figures out something, anything at all, about himself and his relationships. Where he sits down and talks to Brandy and Angus and stops being so shitty to both of them and instead starts being honest. But the book just ends so abruptly and doesn't offer any of that to me.
A couple things I did like about this book: I thought the isolation that Will felt from both his parents because of the divorce was treated in a very realistic way, and that was where I related to Will most, I think. The awkwardness in his interaction with his parents as a result of the divorce is something that I've experienced myself. I also appreciated that there were lots of subtle observations on class throughout the book, since Will's mother is a lot better-off than his dad – there's lots of stuff on their different living environments and their houses and their lifestyles, and how Will views money and how he spends his money. I found this the most fascinating part of the book actually, because I think it's rare that we get so much of that in a YA book.
But otherwise, two words that sum up this book: dull and frustrating. If you're interested in reading about a bisexual character, it's probably best to look elsewhere.