All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler
Review by Lauren
source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: 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.
Review: I was really curious about this one, having never read anything by Handler - including his work as Lemony Snicket. However, the writing style is a bit difficult to follow. There are not quotations around people speaking, which isn't a big deal, but this combined with the often short scenes, made the book feel a bit too jumpy and hard to follow. I should note that I was reading an e-ARC, so perhaps a finished copy - especially in novel form - might have been the best bet for me. As for the actual book, there really isn't a story per se. It seems to be more of a look into a high school boy's life.
In All the Dirty Parts, readers get Cole, who loves sex. He thinks about it, talks about it, and has it. Nothing about this is terribly shocking when it comes to teenagers, and I appreciate the honesty Handler shows regarding that. However, there didn't seem to be much beyond that. Yes, he does fall for a girl that almost seems like the female equivalent of him, but he still has issues with seeing females and sex the way he seems males and sex. Basically, it's a case of double standards, and I'm not sure Cole really learns enough by the end of the novel.
I did find his non-relationship with his best friend, Alec, intriguing. Both of them have always watched porn and talked about it, but eventually, they begin incorporating sex into their friendship. It's a non-relationship though because Cole doesn't want anymore than that. He's not gay, and maybe he's not. It's just sex for him. But it's a dynamic in their friendship that doesn't work when Alec develops actual feelings. All in all, this was just okay for me. I probably finished it more because it was short than because I really enjoyed it throughout.