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After a tragic accident devastates his family, 16-year-old Rick St. James starts his junior year of high school alone in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. When he meets Kevin Vincent, he’s too distracted by the promise of new friends to see that Kevin has secrets of his own.
Having created an environment where he’s feared and admired by his classmates, Kevin finds pleasure in using his good looks and violence to control and manipulate those around him. Secretly, he cruises the gay club scene, turning tricks to earn money so he can party and get high.
As Rick’s dad becomes increasingly violent and abusive at home, the two form a surprising and volatile trust. In this battle of wills, their precarious friendship will either keep their lives from blowing up around them or possibly light the fuse that will cause the explosion.
In 24 hours I powered through the 284 pages of this book in horror. At the end of every chapter I knew it was time to DNF the book for my emotional preservation. And after I took a moment and a breath, I turned the page and began the next chapter.
Exquisitely written in dueling POV’s, Violence Begets is the stunning account of two physically and emotionally battered teens coming of age in Mormon saturated Utah. Violence begets violence is an adage with roots in the Gospel of Matthew 26:52 and Utah is a state where The Church of Latter Day Saints is celebrated … and gays are not. Religion barely makes an appearance in this book, but don’t miss it lurking in the setting of the Wasatch Front. This story is about boys whose homes aren’t safe havens for them. And they are not just trapped by their fathers, they are abandoned by a society. Brutally raw in emotion, violence in all its many faces takes center stage, as an intricately woven love story develops amongst the despair while a social commentary lurks on every corner.
Reader beware: graphic in violence and gritty in atmosphere, this book is not for the faint of heart. If you could not sit through the level of violence in American History X and/ or didn’t care for the “teens in despair striving for hope” theme of Domashita Romero’s East then don’t pick this up.
I’d always assumed that once my goal was met, it would take work to keep him coming back, but he seemed to genuinely want to spend time with me, even when we weren’t fucking.
In the starring role is Kevin Vincent. Punk. Alpha in his high school clique. Closeted gay. Calculatingly manipulative. Narcissistic. As the story begins you will peg him as the sociopath. As the story progresses your surety that he is the sociopath will waiver.
I knew what I was feeling was wrong; it was wrong for me. I wasn’t gay, even if he claimed to be. I was normal. Going home that night, I was sure my dad would take one look at my trembling hands and try to beat the experience out of me.
Rick St. James is the new kid. And not a very outgoing one. Haunted by demons from his past spawning from a family tragedy. He manipulates at his whim – oblivious to how good he is at it. Straight. Seemingly weak, but a possible rival to Kevin.
Their mutual talent to manipulate fosters mutual respect. The bruises from their fathers bond them. Their goal is to get out of Utah as soon as they turn eighteen. And as the reader, you will root for them and hope for them to just get out of the story alive.
Over the course of two years the reader witnesses Rick and Kevin battle each other, society, their fathers and themselves. The battles are brutal. Rick and Kevin’s relationship begins with an unspoken game with unspoken rules to establish power outside of their homes. A game that neither ever really knows if the other is done playing. Their fathers believe a beating is the cure for everything from disrespectfulness to homosexuality and as an added bonus it is an enjoyable stress relief for them. Probably one of the most frustrating aspects of this read though is every single characters propensity to deceive for the appearance of normality. In spite of being victims, the boys are complicit in covering their fathers’ sins as if cleaning up spilt milk. Neither of them go to the police, or to CPS or even just to an adult – they don’t trust them, the system has already failed them and they perceive reaching out as only resulting in harsher punishment. Denys does well emphasizing many cyclical parallels in this story. These are guarded boys, nothing comes easy to them or from them. So when the revelation that they authentically care for one another occurs, yet another struggle arises. The struggle to trust. To trust in their emotions and to trust in another human being, who could hold the key to their salvation or hold the ability to deliver the most devastating blow – one directly to the heart.
I have seen a number of reviews for this book cite how good of a “mind game” Denys writes. I don’t usually reference points in others’ reviews, but I feel that statement is misleading. Yes, the boys begin by playing a psychologically manipulative “game” of sorts with each other and Kevin in particular is a calculatingly plotting character. But due to the dueling POV’s, the reader has an apt understanding of each boys motivations and emotional states and for that purpose, I don’t consider this book to contain a psychologically thrilling mind game. If Denys had not given us Kevin’s POV and the story was told solely by Rick, he may have been able to create more of what I would consider a typical mind game. However, what I believe we witness is more in the realm of “mind jousting” and social posturing. Also, readers familiar with early British literature will pick up on some formulaic devices worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy that I felt didn’t lend credence to the story and detracted from it being a full five stars for me. Denys did a good job of juxtaposing “the sweet against the harsh” and captured the ironies of the universe, but I felt particularly in the second half and ending of the book those allusions were a hair too dramatic hence the 4.5 stars.
This is a story about control, about power. About whose will is stronger than their father’s fist and whose resolve will break before their hearts do. But most of all it is a story about choices. In spite of every punch, every lashing and hours spent locked in the closet (a lot of allusion in that one), on a daily basis Rick and Kevin are faced with the choice of being their fathers or being themselves. Choosing wisely might save their lives, while choosing to love might cost them everything. They have the power to choose to allow violence to beget violence or break the bounds of the old adage and beget love.
If you can stomach this type of story I highly recommend you don’t miss Violence Begets … It might not be a pretty story, but it is a powerful one.
Title: Violence Begets…
Author: PT Denys
Release Date: December 22, 2013
Purchase Links: Amazon