Review: All the Dirty Parts

Hey, it’s a Daniel Handler book.  This time Handler has metaphorically thumbed through one of his young adult romances and printed all the pages that my horny 17-year-old-self would have memorized the page numbers of.  The trick is that he’s printed only those parts.

His protagonist is a young man (Cole) in the waning years of his high school career who – to be purple about it – is often consumed by passion.  He sleeps around a lot and finds many people willing to do so with him.  Handler inflicts the usual punishment on him: he falls in love. Arguably twice, but not in a Sweet Valley High kind of way.

Handler evokes the witches brew of feelings that love and sex inflame in people in ways that hammer your chest and mist your eyes with a few words.  Cole is real because he’s foolish, wise, callous, and slowly changed.  Watching Handler put him through his paces is intellectually a writing master class and emotionally a fantastic trip.

The trick of doing this by only “turning on the camera” for the dirty parts kept me engaged throughout.  There’s no question about Cole’s unreliability, but trying to piece together missing facts, his deliberate self-deception and his youthful mistakes is a huge chunk of the fun.  That the reader only sees Cole when he’s foaming at the mouth only improves it.

Strongly Recommended.

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