All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

August 30, 2017     erinthebooknut     Book review

All the Dirty Parts by Daniel HandlerAll the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler
Published by Bloomsbury USA on August 29th 2017
Pages: 144

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."

3.5 Nuts

Some of you may be sitting here musing to yourself “why do I know the name Daniel Handler?” Maybe you’ve read another one for his books, WHY WE BROKE UP, maybe not. But you probably have read a Daniel Handler book before, only you didn’t know him as Daniel Handler. You knew him as Lemony Snicket. Yes, that Lemony Snicket.

However when it comes to ALL THE DIRTY PARTS, this book is a far cry from the childish whimsy of a Snicket book. ALL THE DIRTY PARTS is in fact dirty. In fact it is comprised of all the moments of a young teen’s life in which he is thinking about sex. And only those parts. The conceit of this book is that everything else in his life doesn’t matter to the narrator, only the dirty parts.

The main character of the book, Cole, is a rather unpleasant teenager. Yes, I know teenage boys are gross but this character is particularly so. The way he thinks about girls, the way he treats girls, he’s a real pig. If anyone were to think that this is how all teenage boys think about the opposite sex then they’d never want to go near them again.

Cole is so soley focused on his sexual pursuits that everything else in his life suffers. Friendships, real relationships, his grades. He is not a pleasant character but I don’t think that he necessarily needs to be. You’re not really supposed to like Cole. I don’t think Handler would expect you to see him as any sort of hero. He’s just a sex crazed kid, and kids like him exist. It’s probably the most real interpretation of that part of a teenage boy’s mind I could imagine seeing.

Now because everything but the dirty parts is excised from the story you don’t have a lot else to work with. There’s nothing redeeming about Cole because you don’t see any of that. The book’s format is a little choppy because of its premise. It’s more a literary experiment than a whole narrative, and for what it is I’d call it a good read.

Would I read it again? Probably not. Was it something I would have picked up without the name Daniel Handler attached? Nah. But’s then again it’s not my usual cup of tea. Still, I thought the premise was interesting and it was well executed. But I didn’t really like it. Luckily it’s quality and my feelings about the story are not mutually exclusive.

Does this sound like a book you would be interested in reading? Share your thoughts in the comments.

From my shelf to yours,


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.