All the Dirty Parts – Book Review

 

Book Title: All the Dirty Parts
Book Author: Daniel Handler
Page Count: 144
Publishing Date: August 29th, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Date Read: August 20th, 2017
Source: ARC from publisher – Thank you!

 

Synopsis

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.”

 

My Review

We’ve all read contemporary romance novels that were either slow burn romances or we learned every single detail about the relationship, including the dates, the conversations, and the special moments.  But what happens when we read a book that skips over all of the lighter, fluffier aspects of relationships and skip right to the things we don’t hear about too often?  The things that we tend to blush when we read or talk about?  The things that we have been told are taboo to talk about?  Yes, this book is exactly what you expect it to be – a novel that features all the dirty parts – parts that tend to get overlooked in your typical novel, whether it be young adult or just an adult novel in general.

“Let me put it this way: This is how much I think about sex.  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 is a teenage boy who thinks about sex – a lot.  Not only does he think about sex a lot, he’s also having sex a lot.  Unfortunately, this is causing him to have a reputation, but he doesn’t really mind all that much – he still manages to get girls to sleep with him, and when he is done with them, he moves on, telling the next girl what she wants to hear and sleeping with her.  Cole doesn’t really have the ability to form healthy relationships, because he is only after one thing.

During a particularly dry spell for Cole, he starts to fool around with his best friend, causing him to rethink a lot of things, not only about his friend and what they’re doing, but about himself, as well.  The two of them are going way above and beyond just sharing porn videos over the internet.

Eventually, a new girl, Grisaille, comes to the school for a semester, and Cole is smitten with her.  At first, it’s a physical lust type of thing, where he wants her, and lucky for Cole, she seems to want him, too.   But as Cole’s feelings for Grisaille grow as he starts to learn about her interests, secrets, and desires, he gets the feeling that she might only be interested in one thing after all – the same thing Cole used all of those girls for before he met Grisaille, and he doesn’t know if he can handle not being anything more than that.

All the Dirty Parts is a short book, at only 144 pages, but it’s 144 pages full of wow.  I’m still reeling from this book – from the complexity of the emotions and thoughts that Cole exhibits to the lesson that Cole learns when he falls for Grisaille.

Told in small snippets instead of chapters, this book doesn’t follow any of the rules we expect books to play by – especially those written with a young adult audience in mind.  Pieces of conversations, intimate encounters, and snippets of thoughts and ideas that seem as though they should have more surrounding them work together to form a story that is powerful and erotic.

Cole’s character really is full of personality, and it’s interesting reading about what makes this teenage boy tick – like what goes through his mind and what types of things that he thinks and expects from girls.

When Cole meets Grisaille and starts to fall for her, it’s really obvious what’s going to happen later in the book, and it really seems to humble Cole a bit and make him more of a person you could actually be friends with, instead of a sex crazed egotistical teenage boy who isn’t all that nice.

In the description of the book, Cole is mentioned as being an “all-too-typical young man,” but I don’t really know if that’s the case.  I’m a girl, and sure, lots of guys probably think about sex on a regular basis, but to me it just seemed like Cole had a bit of a sex addiction.  Not only does Cole think about sex a lot and watch more porn than can possibly be “typical,” he also has a lot of sex and more or less treats the girls he sleeps with like they are merely nothing important to him.  I imagine a lot of guys are like this, but I just think that the character portrayal could have been done a lot better to make him more, well, likable.

Some of the scenes in this book were incredibly explicit and to be honest, made me a tad bit…uncomfortable.  I’m no prude by any means, but this was just really out there and not like anything I’m used to reading.  Once I got used to it though, I found I was easily able to just sit back, read, and enjoy the story.  I really try to stay away from new adult books because of the overly sexed up writing, and it’s rare to come across anything like this in the young adult genre, which leads me to wonder who the intended audience for this book is actually for.  Is it for adults?  It’s written like it is, but I can see a lot of adults feeling a bit uneasy reading it.  Is it written for young adults?  I assumed so, considering the author has penned other young adult books in the past, but if this is the case, I highly recommend it for older young adults and not anyone younger than maybe sixteen or seventeen.  Either way, this is a book that is going to mess with you, making you incredibly uncomfortable, and probably make you wonder what goes on inside the heads of others – not just guys, but girls, too.

Truth be told, All the Dirty Parts was definitely one of the most unique and character driven books that I have ever read, and if you are interested in character driven books, I really recommend that you give this one a try, especially if you don’t mind reading about the content in the book.  It’s such a wonderful story about a teenage boy coming to terms with his own identity, and it is sure to spark discussions with others who have read the book.

All the Dirty Parts is spot on and exactly what you think it’s going to be when you read it – it skips most of the parts of our lives that some might find mundane and boring, and instead focuses on the sexy parts that others might find inappropriate.  In fact, this whole book is wonderfully inappropriate, and that makes it a lot of fun.

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Guest review contributed by Here’s to Happy Endings. Kelly focuses on young adult book reviews, with author interviews, giveaways, and memes such as Waiting on Wednesdays, as well as participating in blog tours.  She enjoys working with authors to promote books!

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