Perfectly Good White Boy - Carrie Mesrobian

As Corey Whaley notes in his blurb on the cover, Mesrobian's text, much like Sex & Violence is a "memorable story about growing up in an often ridiculous world." And that's really what this book is, a story of growing up, maturing, and making choices that will affect the future.

Sean Norwhalt is dumped by Hallie. He was her summer boyfriend, but since she's decided to head off to college, he is feeling pretty crappy about his future. He begins to see all possible futures as disposable. One day, though, Sean decides to make changes, so he signs up for the Marine Corps, exactly where nobody thought he would end up. But then he starts to hang out with Neecie Albertson, a girl he never expected to care about.

Perfectly Good White Boy is very much a character-driven novel. This is not to say there is no plot, but character development is at the heart of Sean's story. Sean is not always sympathetic; readers see the good, the bad, and the terrible. Even while Sean acts like a total douche-bag at times, I couldn't help but hope that things would turn out for him in the long run. His relationship, or lack thereof, with Hallie, is also intriguing, and I could never figure out if I liked Hallie, or if I really disliked her... or if I just felt sorry for her.
So, then I just kind of fell into this hole. The Hallie Martin Hole. It was a decent place to be. She smelled really good. And she looked even better. Hallie's hair, when she pulled it out of her pony-tail, was dark reddish blond. She was a lot shorter than me, but most everyone is. I couldn't stop looking at her. I had no idea why she was hanging out with me.
But I went along with it. Me and Hallie drinking more beer. Me and Hallie drinking shots of tequila. Me and Hallie playing bad Frisbee. Me and Hallie and her friends, getting introduced. Me and Hallie, suddenly, this thing
Sean's family situation is not ideal. His mother always seems disappointed with him, his brother is mean to him all the time, and his father is out of the picture in rehab somewhere. His grandfather doesn't show up too often, but he appears to be the most understanding when it comes to Sean's way of thinking. Even Sean's dog is a sympathetic and rounded character in the overall novel. I found myself getting a bit annoyed at Sean's desire to stick with some of his friends even though I found them frustrating, but I realize this is the way the world works, and that sometimes you stick with friends even when you find them unbearable!

I also appreciated the inclusion of Neecie's hearing trouble. It's nice to see such a depiction in a novel without it becoming a core component of that character's development. There is nothing "special" about Neecie, nor is her disability something focused on by others within the narrative. 

Teens often face decisions that, while not as "big" as we often see adult decisions, are important nonetheless. Decisions about what to do after high school are something that so many people focus on, I think, without seemingly realizing how much pressure they are putting on teens in the process. It's no wonder so many youth turn to drinking, drugs, sex, and other forms of distraction. 

Sex, language, and other raw and gritty parts of reality make each character realistically honest and flawed. Even if you are not a fan of the language and sex throughout Sean's narrative, you will find yourself satisfied with the path that Sean manages to get himself aligned with. From another perspective, the realities of sexual activity and removal from emotional investment are intriguingly explored through Sean's male teen lens.

Recommended

(Note: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out October 1, 2014)

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