Quick book picks for October

In this, the spookiest of months, I’ve got some historical gothic and YA horror as well as the next in the Hogarth Shakespeare series and some distinctive short books. As usual, links to longer reviews from the titles.

  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins – A hugely enjoyable YA horror/thriller novel with a biracial protagonist. Perfect for teens and adults wanting to relive Point Horror and similar books.
  • Dunbar by Edward St Aubyn – I have mixed feelings about Aubyn’s Hogarth Shakespeare novel (and about its source text, King Lear), but the darkly comic tone will appeal to some and it is interesting to see which elements have been kept and changed.
  • All The Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler – Raucous and blunt, the Series of Unfortunate Events author takes on the teenage boy’s mind in this short novel.
  • The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott – A character-focused novel about Irish American Catholics in New York, sure to delight fans of that kind of narrative.
  • The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell – This historical gothic tale about a widow staying in her husband’s old house is eerie and the titular silent companions will haunt you long after the final page.
  • The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler – A non-fiction treat to dip into, in which Fowler provides snappy short chapters on a range of forgotten authors, including crime, mystery, and more general works.

All The Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

A Series of Inappropriate Events: All The Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

All The Dirty Parts is a short, sharp novel about teenage desire from Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. It charts the inner thoughts—mostly dirty, as the title promises—of a high school boy who is gaining a reputation, or so people warn him. Cole is obsessed with sex and has slept with a number of girls, and described them all to his best friend Alec, but when things with this best friend move in a new direction and then new girl Grisaille takes over his focus, Cole finds out things aren’t as simple as he’d made them out to be.

Handler writes in a distinctive style, giving Cole a clear voice, and the whole novel is written in tiny snippets, like thoughts jumping back and forth. He takes the conversational narration of Holden Caulfield, the frank and explicit content of Bret Easton Ellis, and his own serious handling of young people’s thoughts and realities that will be recognisable to fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and creates a brash novel with a main character who seems all too typical. Everything is sketched lightly and the novel’s pace is quick, making it easy to consume in one sitting, and the ending leaves the kind of ambiguity found in teenage life, unsure what will happen next.

All The Dirty Parts is not for everyone. It is blunt, it talks extensively about teenagers having and thinking about sex, and it does with a narrator who is no simple hero. Some readers will find it uncomfortable; others will find Cole too unlikeable, or too honest a teenage boy. However, what Handler recognises is that teenagers will always consume media like this—maybe by discovering cult adult novels with famously explicit content, or through film and TV, or fanfiction, or otherwise. By writing a novel that appeals to both a sense of relatable content and a desire for that which feels shocking or exciting, he is depicting teenagers in a way that could be insightful to both them and adults, whilst also being entertaining.