All the Dirty Parts
2.5 – 3 STARS
From bestselling, award-winning author Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), an eagerly anticipated, gutsy, exciting novel that looks honestly at the erotic lives and impulses of an all-too-typical young man.
Cole is a boy in high school. He runs cross country, he sketches in a sketchbook, he jokes around with friends. But none of this quite matters, next to the allure of sex. Let me put it this way, he says, Draw a number line, with zero is, you never think about sex, and ten is, it's all you think about, and while you are drawing the line, I am thinking about sex. Cole fantasizes about whomever he's looking at. He consumes and shares pornography. And he sleeps with a lot of girls--girls who seem to enjoy it at the time and seem to feel bad about it afterwards. Cole is getting a reputation around school--a not quite savory one--which leaves him adrift and hanging out with his best friend. Which is when something startling begins to happen between them--another kind of adventure, unexpected and hot, that might be what he's been after all this time. And then he meets Grisaille.
A companion piece to Handler's Why We Broke Up, the bestselling Michael J. Printz Honor novel, All The Dirty Parts is an unblinking take on the varied and ribald world of teenage desire in a culture of unrelenting explicitness and shunted communication, where sex feels like love, but no one knows what love feels like. Structured in short chapters recalling Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation or Mary Robison's Why Did I Ever, the novel gives us a tender, brutal, funny, and always intoxicating portrait of an age in which the whole world is tilted through the lens of sex. "There are love stories galore," Cole tells us, "and we all know them. This isn't that. The story I'm typing is all the dirty parts."
I received an ARC of this novel from Bloomsbury Publishing in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.
This book was very strange, from the format it was written in (to me it was paragraphs of Cole’s thoughts), to the way the words flowed across the page. While I knew the novel would be quite sexual in detail, I was not prepared for the level of explicitness it had. I think going into it knowing Daniel Handler is Lemony Snicket set me up a bit to be quite taken aback by the content. ALL THE DIRTY PARTS was most definitely dirty – it got very dirty and I'm still confused as to how I feel about it.
ALL THE DIRTY PARTS explores sexual desire, sexual addiction, and sexuality. I admit I was quite surprised at the inclusion of a same sex “relationship” – from the synopsis I thought it would be all about girls – and I was glad to see the exploration of sexuality included in the novel.
However, the book was too vulgar at times and weirdly overly descriptive, I felt uncomfortable reading about a teen boy masturbating and obsessing over sex. I do understand it was deliberately overboard in order to carry across the thoughts of a sexually addicted teen; however, I felt at multiple times that it was just too much (aka the hummus part: this book has ruined hummus for me).
I did like that it came full circle for Cole – he got to know what it felt like to be no longer desired by the person he was in love with. He did it to multiple (MULTIPLE) girls throughout the novel - It was satisfying to see a little karma. It was disappointing that it didn’t really feel like he had learnt his lesson, though. One positive note about the story: I didn’t think that the woman/girls in this book were portrayed in a poor light, despite his ‘use’ of them. It did touch on the whole ‘if a guy sleeps with a bunch of girls he’s a legend, if a girl does it she is a whore’, but it didn’t go anywhere with it – it was simply the view point of a teen boy who couldn’t wait to have sex.
The novel comprised to me a series of Cole’s thoughts over a short time period, and there wasn’t much of a story; it was probably more of a vignette. I expected a bit more from the "plot", but I felt that it fell short. Despite this, I did finish the book, and didn’t really enjoy the ending.