“Men, Women, & Children” by Chad Kultgen : Review


Men, Women, and Children by Chad Kultgen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found “Men, Women, & Children” to be surprising. The novel centres around a group of barely adolescent children and their parents in an American town. The book covers a range of themes including sex, unhappy marriages, infidelity, divorce, sex, eating disorders, suicide, depression, sex, teenage pregnancy, and perhaps at the root of a lot of these issues – social pressure. Oh, and also sex. Did I mention that?

The children all want to have sex (at age thirteen, mind you) and the parents don’t want to have sex or, rather, want to have sex with people other than their partners. I knew roughly what the book was about, based on the recent movie trailer, but was still surprised at the level of detail with which the multiple themes are explored (read: really quite graphic sexy time bits).

Something I picked up on was that essentially of the issues experienced by all characters would be helped, if not solved, by open, honest, proper communication with the people around you. There was a lot of secrecy and Kultgen showed that two people walking away from a shared experience were actually thinking the exact same thing as each other but both often resolved to simply not talk about. This is something that frustrates me greatly personally and often causes me to get very impatient when watching movies or TV shows with a slow-developing romance. Stop um-ing and ah-ing and just tell them you like them! Anyway, I really liked how Kultgen highlighted that – it was quite subtle – and I hope other readers picked up on it too.

I enjoyed the writing (though I skimmed a lot of the football-related parts) and enjoyed the shifting spotlight style Kultgen employs so the reader is provided with a seamless switch from one character to another. I think this is part of what contributes to it somehow managing to not read like “just another teenage turbulence novel”. I liked reading about the teenager’s story lines as much as the adult’s, though I found the teenager’s plots to be overall more shocking and disturbing. The ending was very abrupt and left a lot of unanswered questions, which I’m not a huge fan of (hence the 4/5) but I can see why Kultgen would want to leave certain story lines open to interpretation.

Overall, I enjoyed it and am pleased there is a book out there that explores a range of issues quite pertinent to society today in as much depth and honesty. I plan on seeing the movie and reading Kultgen’s other books as well. Read it if you like reading about people’s lives. Read it if you’re interested in seeing things from different perspectives. Don’t read it if you don’t like reading about sex or football.

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Jacquie is a 20-something maker and writer from Melbourne. She enjoys eating virtually anything that is labelled salted caramel and, contrary to popular belief, has forgotten how to ride a bike. She feels ambivalent about writing in the third person but thought it might be fun. It was.


  1. Deb Baker

    I'm not sure that I'd be able to read a book that has thirteen year olds having sex. Gad – am I getting really old?! Maybe it's because I have a 15 year old son and nearly 13 year old daughter and the thought of either of them having sex mortifies me!! Apart from that it sounds interesting – although I am not a football fan. I'm really enjoying your book reviews.


  2. birdandfox

    Oh don't worry, Deb, I felt quick shocked myself when reading that ALL of the thirteen year olds were so intent on having sex. I'm pretty sure I just liked reading books and sketching when I was thirteen – the thought hadn't even crossed my mind! So there were definitely elements of the book that surprised me, continually, and made me feel so sad that kids as young as that feel a pressure to be engaging in activities like sex when they themselves honestly don't feel ready.

    Thank you so much! I'm glad you're enjoying them. I really enjoy writing them – so many times I finish a book and don't properly formulate an opinion on it. This really helps me to remember what I actually thought of the book when someone asks me six months later! 😛

    Thanks for the comment, Deb! x


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