I finished reading Carrie Mesrobian’s Cut Both Ways last night. I was drawn in my the cover blurb, “I know how to fold myself up into anything. You can fold anything into me and it’ll blend.” I read Mesrobian’s debut novel Sex and Violence, and I was interested to see her take on a character struggling to find himself within the many different worlds he attempts to navigate.
Will Caynes splits his time between his parents’ houses. With his dad, he lives in an almost condemned construction project. At his mom’s, he feels like he’s living in a hotel where nothing belongs to him: “Every week I was somewhere new. I couldn’t just toss my shit everywhere like I was staying on permanently.”
In the suburbs, he’s falling for his best friend. In the city, he has a girlfriend. Mesrobian made a point to never use the word “bisexual” in the story. Even though Will struggles with his feelings for both Angus and Brandy, he never considers the fact that he might not be “just” straight or “just” gay.
Will’s sexual identity is never clearly stated. He struggles throughout the entire story, and Mesrobian leaves that resolution purposely vague. It’s interesting to watch how he fluctuates from Brandy to Angus and back, seeking different forms of comfort and acceptance from them both. Whomever he’s with, he blends in, a chameleon in both worlds, but never feels completely comfortable in either.
Approaching the issue of “bi-erasure” in such a manner doesn’t settle the debate, but it seems real and authentic coming from a teenage boy.
Several reviewers have given the book scathing reviews because Will cheats, but since he’s an 18-year old, figuring out who he is and where he belongs, I had sympathy for him. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be pissed off if I were Brandy and Angus, but I do understand Will’s reasons. He’s not a perfect person; he’s confused, angry, indecisive, unlikeable at times – well, basically, he’s a teenager. Mesrobian does an excellent job portraying the real, messy inner worlds of teens.
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My only problem with this book is that the book ends so abruptly. There is no real resolution to anything. Will hasn’t worked anything out with Angus or Brandy, his father’s housing issues are still complicated, his homophobic step-dad hasn’t let him come home, and his mother refuses to stand up for her son.
I would have loved a few more chapters to resolve at least some of these issues. For a stand-alone, Will’s entire life remains hanging.
I give 4 out of 5 stars to Cut Both Ways. It’s definitely for mature readers due to language and sexual content, but I highly recommend it to anyone in search of diverse YA.