Managing Executive Editor
In one of the most brutally honest expositions of what it is like to be a teenager growing up in the age of the internet, “Men, Women & Children,” penned by author Chad Kultgen, goes where no other author would dare to.
“Men, Women & Children” explores the lives of four separate families who are ultimately connected in some way – all going through the minutiae of life together. The novel focuses heavily on the sexual pressure that is put on a group of 13-year-olds as well as their parents. Stemming from this pressure arises issues such as depression, anorexia, dealing with divorce and, ultimately, losing one’s virginity; all problems that school age children deal with today.
Kultgen doesn’t just highlight these issues, he writes in a way that is informative and memorable.
“Men, Women & Children,” is nothing short of graphic. It is the type of novel that you read and you continue to think about months or years after you put it down. Kultgen highlights the issues of these children in a way that I have experienced in no other novel before. I felt like I was in the passenger seat of these kids’ mental health journeys.
On the adult side, Kultgen is mostly focused on how the internet has made it easier for people to normalize inserting infidelity into a relationship, and he does this so well. If you want to read this novel, brace yourself. Kultgen does not hold back on sex, in fact, I think he feeds off of it. There are probably over 100 pages of sex in various forms, which is not a bad thing as it adds to the story, if you are okay with reading that kind of literature.
Although uncomfortable at times, Kultgen presents a learning experience for the reader. There was no real “story” in a sense in this novel, and a lot of the characters were similar, however, the story lies in the everyday. Kultgen highlights these problems that these children are facing and in telling that, becomes a story. Readers get highlights of Allison’s anorexia journey, Tim’s depression and Kent’s sexual desires.
One of the highlights of the novel was the relationship between two junior high school kids that liked each other, but were both too self conscious to really do anything to initiate their relationship. This is where Kultgen really shines. Through the use of his all-knowing third-person narrator, we get to see what all of the characters are thinking and feeling, and this really is what made the book a page turner. I wanted to know more about what everyone was feeling and in this, I felt like I was having a conversation with the characters.
Even though Kultgen dives into heavy topics such as anorexia and depression, the book is mainly based around sex. This was a problem for me. I wanted to know more about the deeper issues, not just mainly sex. But, in focusing on this, Kultgen also highlights how important that aspect of life is to school-age children and adults who have access to the internet.
Interestingly, all of the problems that these children are facing stem from the internet, and that is ultimately the theme of the novel. It seems as if all of these children are striving for happiness, and see that reaching a goal is ultimately the only way to make them happy. For example, losing their virginity, or posting online about how skinny they are– they are all just trying to be happy. And more so, happiness is almost impossible to attain in the writing of Kultgen, and he explores this idea many times throughout the novel. The epigraph of the novel explains that happiness is pointless because nothing in the world matters, and I think that is the main theme of the novel.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the novel, however, if you do not like reading about sex, then steer clear of this one. However, if you can look past that, you will get something from this novel that is impactful: the insignificance we humans bring to the universe.
Connor Crawford can be contacted at: