All the Dirty Parts

Daniel Handler's raunchy, sex-drenched, stream-of-consciousness novel All the Dirty Parts reads like Portnoy's Complaint set in high school. Teenager Cole is obsessed with online porn and has earned a reputation around his high school for having effortless sex with a lot of his female classmates. Now, his relationship with his pal Alec has turned sexual. The bulk of this slim novel covers the teenage sexploits and extreme emotions that erupt in Cole's journal when he starts dating a sexually voracious exchange student named Grisaille. "There are love stories galore, and we all know them," Cole writes. "This isn't that. The story I'm typing is all the dirty parts."

What's refreshing about All the Dirty Parts is how Handler avoids turning Cole's world into a simple teen sex comedy. Although, Cole's asides can be hilarious ("Four years ago I think, I thought anal sex just meant you were really particular about it"). Handler's portrait of adolescent sexuality--with its raging urges, fumbling exploration, euphoric discoveries and sudden emotional pitfalls--is brash, messy, endearing, sexually explicit and haunting. Although Cole often writes in disjointed sentences as he tries to sort through new erotic discoveries and surprising emotional entanglements, the people in his life are full-bodied and the emotions they feel are authentic.

Those who ban books will not be happy, but adults and mature teen readers will find this novel irresistible. Handler (aka Lemony Snicket, author of numerous children's books) has written a gutsy, raw and funny slice of teenage life that few will ever forget. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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