Review: These Violent Delights



These Violent Delights
by Micah Nemerever
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like Paul and Julian's feelings for each other in These Violent Delights, I both loved this book and I hated it too. Three stars from me, which splits the difference between five for the love and zero for the hate.

This book did have the impact on me that I suspect the author was aiming for. I read the first three parts of the book and almost stopped because I couldn't relate to where this story was going / had gone, and I was really revolted by the self pity and the rage. But I plowed on and finished it, and I'm glad I did because the fourth part of the book eased back on the intensity and brought at least some humanity back to the characters.

It's a roller coaster ride, and if that intrigues you and it sounds like a ride you'd like to go on, then by all means pick up this book. Just don't say I didn't warn you...

I read the audiobook, and Michael Crouch did a fantastic job with narration.

Some of my other thoughts on the book:

Fantastic writing - evocative of the characters young age and strong intellects, great atmosphere, flowed really well. Many stories / levels within the overall story that add to the depth of feelings this book will get from you. Astounding that this is a debut novel.

Complex characters - first you feel empathy, then disappointment, then revulsion, then disrespect. And at the same time you understand who these people are, even though you do not understand many of the things they do.

Familiar plot (ala Leopold & Loeb) - Set in the 1970s at an unnamed college in Pittsburgh, the book is in four Parts - boy meets boy, needy boy falls for needy boy in a love with increasingly violent undertones, boy couple plots a heinous crime to cement their love, boys get away with it (okay, that part is not familiar). Four parts, four emotions from me - empathy, disappointment, revulsion, disrespect.

Unreliable narrator - Though told in the third person, the narrator closely hews to Paul's story. Julian never really comes into equal focus, and while that seems intentional on the author's part, to me it is the book's biggest weakness. It's clear that the two boys love and understand each other with life altering intensity, but its much clearer why Paul was drawn to Julian than vice versa. And when you think you've figured out what Julian sees in Paul, something happens that lets you know that you're wrong. And that's when you realize that you aren't getting the "true" story of what happened, but only Paul's version of it.

Missteps - There were a few others, but these two stuck out to me - 1) Paul is seventeen when the book starts. When the book ends, Paul is seventeen. A full academic year at college and part of a second occur during the course of the book. So how is Paul still seventeen? 2) Paul visits Julian's parent's palatial home and wishes it were one of the lesser mansions he sees on the drive there, because they seem more "nouveau riche", and so perhaps more something he could better understand than the "old money" estate he arrives at. I found this maybe a bit too worldly wise for a 1970s working class city kid, even one as precocious as Paul. 3) Almost everything that happens at Julian's parent's house seems cliched and one dimensional (except for the boy's destruction fantasy). Again, this seems to have been the author's intent, but it reads as the weakest part of the book.

These Violent Delights links

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