What would falling in love with your best friend of the same gender feel like? How do people come to identify as bisexual, and explain their sexuality to others? These are the questions Carrie Mesrobian wants to answer in her young adult novel Cut Both Ways.
The protagonist, Will Caynes, is seventeen years old and has never been kissed— until he drunkenly hooks up with his male best friend Angus, and then starts a relationship with a girl, Brandy. He doesn’t know which one to choose, and he isn’t sure that he’s straight anymore.
He’s caught between two worlds, in every aspect of his life. As a child of divorce, he lives in the homes of both his parents, who dislike each other, and doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere. Will doesn’t know which parent, house, or partner to choose without hurting someone’s feelings.
That’s what I felt the book was truly about, making decisions. Will makes some terrible choices and some good ones, which makes the story very realistic. Although he realizes this, Will doesn’t change his behavior, which is equally frustrating and interesting. He is morally ambiguous, but I still really sympathized with him. He is also completely honest about his feelings and thoughts; so this story really doesn’t hold anything back.
Cut Both Ways has an open ending, which I don’t like at all. It does, however, fit the character-driven story. The only other thing I didn’t like about this book was its portrayal of bisexuality, a term which is never even mentioned in the story. Will portrays a classic stereotype: all bisexuals are non-monogamous, cheating sex-addicts who just can’t choose.
Although people like that certainly exist, they aren’t all bisexual, and not all bisexuals behave that way. I hoped for a character who wasn’t a stereotype when I first opened this book, and I was disappointed.
I felt that Mesrobian wrote a good book, just maybe not the one she intended to write. Of the two questions that started this story, I feel that only one is answered in this book.
Overall, though, I enjoyed this novel. I like most of the characters, especially the parental figures who support Will when his dysfunctional parents didn’t. This story made me smile and groan at its characters’ decisions, and its brutal honesty.
If you want to read about characters exploring their sexuality and dealing with complicated circumstances, and aren’t disturbed by sexually explicit content, Cut Both Ways should be on your to-read list.