Where to begin? Cut Both Ways is a book that I've been highly anticipating since I read the synopsis. If there's one thing that the literary world doesn't have enough of, it's books that place a spotlight on bisexuality, and how hard it must be to deal with as a teenager. Sexuality as a whole is concept that all teens deal with, whether their parents acknowledge it or not. I can only sit back and wonder what it must be like to realize that there are feelings there, for both sexes, and not knowing what to do about it. Carrie Mesrobian was brave enough to tackle this, and I really wanted to see how it all turned out.
Now, I think I need to premise this whole review with the fact that I strongly believe every reader deserves the opportunity to know what to expect before they get involved in a new story. I always appreciate authors who note trigger warnings and explicit content. Since I didn't know ahead of time that Cut Both Ways was going to be fairly explicit, I want to warn anyone else who has this on their TBR. There is a lot of sex in this story. There is sex between two males, and sex between a male and a female. It isn't always safe sex. There is no mention of the possibility of STDs, although pregnancy is mentioned. In truth, as a reader who reads all age groups of books, I would place this story more in the NA category than in YA. Some of these scenes are described in great detail.
On to characters. Will is truthfully still an enigma to me, even after finishing this book. See, our narrator doesn't actually tell his story. It's more like we're treated to an uncut stream of consciousness as it pours out of his brain. There are times where I appreciate this kind of raw story telling. It's often the best way to express real feelings. Where Will is concerned though, the problem is that he isn't only dealing with his sexuality. He's dealing with an alcoholic father. With an overbearing mother. With a step-father who treats him as though he doesn't exist. Will's thoughts became this huge, tangled mess that I had soon had problems pushing through. I wanted to feel for him. I wanted to understand him. I just couldn't find a foot hold. I felt more love for Brandy and Angus, than I did for Will. The two of them had their own problems, but they at least they had a better idea of what they were striving for.
What really pushed me away from this book though, is the way that bisexuality ultimately ended up being portrayed. I'll be the first to admit that it's easy for the teenage brain to focus on sex. It's fresh, it's new. Most of the time it's taboo. It didn't surprise me at all that Will couldn't separate his feelings for Brandy from the ones he felt for Angus. One he shouldn't want, the other he should, and yet both felt right. The big problem was that there were no actual relationships. Being with both of them, at least from the way that the story was focused, was more about casual sex. Feeling good. None of the work, all of the pleasure. If we're focusing on bisexuality, and trying to push it into the spotlight as being just as important as someone being gay, why trivialize it with casual sex? It makes being bisexual feel like just an easier way to find sex, and that's just not okay.
Apologies for the long review. I put a lot of thought into all my feelings about this book before I sat down to write this, and I'm still not sure I accurately expressed everything that I'm feeling. The bottom line is that I truly believe bisexuality is an important topic. I think it's something that teens need access to, in a way that makes them feel understood. Carrie Mesrobian has the right idea. I just really wish it would have been executed better.