Sean Norwhalt can read between the lines.
“You never know where we’ll end up. There’s so much possibility in life, you know?” Hallie said.
He knows she just dumped him. He was a perfectly good summer boyfriend, but now she’s off to college, and he’s still got another year to go. Her pep talk about futures and “possibilities” isn’t exactly comforting. Sean’s pretty sure he’s seen his future and its “possibilities” and they all look disposable.
Like the crappy rental his family moved into when his dad left.
Like all the unwanted filthy old clothes he stuffs into the rag baler at his thrift store job.
Like everything good he’s ever known.
The only hopeful possibilities in Sean’s life are the Marine Corps, where no one expected he’d go, and Neecie Albertson, whom he never expected to care about.
Let me preface this by saying that I have not, nor will I ever be, a teenage boy. However I think Mesrobian really depicts an authentic teenage boy’s voice – yes, there’s a lot of reference to boobs and sex and his penis, which he has named ‘The Horn’ (facepalm), but those aren’t the only things our narrator Sean cares about.
He wants to get out of his dead-end small town and make a life for himself outside of a world that presents very few opportunities. He’s not the stereotype of a tail-chasing dude – yes, he can be kind of pervy and obnoxious, but he also has strong romantic feelings. Sean’s the first one to say “ I love you” in the relationship with Hallie, and is incredibly hurt when they break up when she leaves for college.
When getting physical, he checks to see if his partner is still okay with what they’re doing, and in his internal monologue during one scene, he mentions not carrying on if he hears ‘stop’ or ‘no’. CONSENT, YO. IT’S IMPORTANT. And I’m glad to see it depicted, especially from a boy’s perspective.
This isn’t to say Sean’s an angel – he still has many flaws. But he’s human, and I found him loveable despite this. He cries when he’s emotionally hurt (in secret, in his room). He adores his doggie. He’s also kind of funny – take this description of his swearing in to the Marines:
Though it felt like a wedding. A wedding with dudes. A dude wedding with no party afterwards.
I loved watching the relationship develop between himself and Neecie.
I didn’t care what she thought about me, because clearly she didn’t care about what I thought of her and that was nice, because normally, when I liked a girl, I was so tense around her I could barely speak. So this was all nice, because I thought she was cool, in all these different ways, like her hearing thing that made me have to think about what I said, whether I meant it, whether I wanted her to really know it.
It’s abrasive, but real, and as the second novel that I’ve read from this author, I can definitely confirm that I love her writing style, although it’s not for everyone.
“I get kind of blank when I think about the future,” she said. “There are so many things, you know? How do I know what to pick, when I haven’t seen any of the things out there?”