From the author of the Series of Unfortunate Events series, a novel about a promiscuous and perpetually horny teenage boy whose quest to have sex with as many girls as possible is complicated by the changing relationship with his gay best friend, and the arrival of a vivacious young woman who challenges his double standards.
Handler’s new novel couldn’t be more unlike the books he wrote under his famous pseudonym. A Series of Unfortunate Events was marked by Handler’s winkingly ornate prose and neo-gothic whimsy; All the Dirty Parts is spare, stripped down and devoid of anything twee. It’s a fascinating, profane book that somehow succeeds on its own merits ... It’s an interesting experiment: The reader is left to connect the dots, to fill in the parts of the story that Cole has elided for not being sufficiently sexual. Handler drops just enough hints for us to do just that, and the portrait that results is quietly heartbreaking, though often hilarious ... It’s difficult to create a fully formed character with the strictures Handler has imposed on himself, narrative fragments from a sex-obsessed high school student. But Cole turns out to be a multifaceted character. It helps that Handler perfectly captures the staccato rhythm of teen-speak; none of the dialogue comes off as inauthentic at all ... Handler doesn’t condescend to his young characters, and he doesn’t offer any easy lessons. All the Dirty Parts is a shockingly original novel...Parents of teenagers might be wary of the language and content, but it deserves to be read widely, and not just by adults — it’s one of the most original and realistic depictions of the sex lives of young people to come around in a long time.
Here, in brief, understated vignettes, Cole sounds like Holden Caulfield writing a sex blog. Amusing yet genuine, lustful yet sensitive, this odd novella approaches teenage horniness seriously and, in the process, touches on important subjects such as sexism, consent, and sexual identity.
Now that the entire catalogue of pornography is accessible on every cellphone and laptop, Handler’s novel isn’t nearly filthy enough. And — major buzzkill — it’s an ironically pious tale ... All his adventures — straight, gay and solitary — are conveyed in the novel’s spindly structure, not so much impressionistic as elliptical. With most of the narrative flesh stripped away, we’re left with just snippets and moments, dialogue and thought freely mixed and undifferentiated ... That his Lotharion ways eventually bring him low is not so surprising — after all, even creeps can get their hearts broken. But what’s strange is that Cole enjoys so little pleasure along the way. Where’s the thrill of sexual passion? The earth-moving excitement? The mind-blowing arousal? For some reason, despite all the sexual mechanics, All the Dirty Parts includes none of the good parts. Handler says he hates all the finger-wagging moralism in most YA lit, but if you’re a certain kind of uptight parent, this may be just the depressing and joyless novel you want your horny son to read. Good luck with that.