So I was recently gifted a new Kindle Paperwhite by my partner (thank you <3) and with it, Amazon gave me 3 months of Kindle unlimited! I’ve never had kindle unlimited before so this was a fun way to explore books I was curious about and give them a read. One that’s been on my radar and highly recommended by a few people was Boy Parts. I didn’t know much about this book – only that it had a lot of funny cultural comments and name-drops that were relevant to the last few years as it was published in 2020. I did not realise how dark, how violent, depraved and just UNHINGED this book could be.
NOTE: there are too many trigger warnings for me to list – please check my Storygraph review for a full list.
Here’s the blurb before I get further into the review:
Irina obsessively takes explicit photographs of the average-looking men she persuades to model for her, scouted from the streets of Newcastle.
Placed on sabbatical from her dead-end bar job, she is offered an exhibition at a fashionable London gallery, promising to revive her career in the art world and offering an escape from her rut of drugs, alcohol, and extreme cinema. The news triggers a self-destructive tailspin, centred around Irina’s relationship with her obsessive best friend, and a shy young man from her local supermarket who has attracted her attention…
Boy Parts is the incendiary debut novel from Eliza Clark, a pitch-black comedy both shocking and hilarious, fearlessly exploring the taboo regions of sexuality and gender roles in the twenty-first century.
As you can tell from the blurb, we follow a woman called Irina. Irina is…not okay. That’s the easiest way to say this haha. She is a strange, disturbed individual who has moments of masochism, and narcissism and seems to practice manipulation for fun. She finds men that don’t quite fit the beauty standard and photographs them in sexual and conventionally uncomfortable settings and positions, under the idea that her explicit photography challenges the status of sexuality and represents an intimate view of the female gaze.
I won’t go into spoilers but this book was truly unhinged. Irina participates in activities that almost made me physically ill at reading this book – it went from partying with hard drugs and alcohol to instances of sexual assault and murder. She played any friends and people she knew like puppets and treated people quite horribly in general. Despite other readers gaining a sense of still wanting the best for her, I was honestly just waiting for when she would find justice or finally feel the consequences of her actions.
The book looks at gender roles in a very interesting way, as Irina can be pretty much summarised as a traumatised girl that acts like a psychopath, for her lack of empathy, and her insatiable need to control everyone around her, particularly men (likely due to the childhood trauma and experiences she’s had with men controller her), except that she’s always given a pass because she’s a woman that’s seen as beautiful, tall and talented. You can see the double standard if a man were doing these acts, compared to her and that is blatantly obvious throughout the whole book.
“do I have to snap the wine bottle inside him to get him to stop sending me sad emails? Do I have to cut his nipple off for him to realise he should probably ring the police? Do I have to cave his head in with my camera, rather than hit him the once? Do I have to crash his car? Do I have to smash a glass over the head of every single man I come into contact with, just so I leave a fucking mark?”Eliza Clark, Boy Parts
This story was also quite disturbing as Irina is not a reliable narrator. Her experiences are so shocking and events occur so bluntly, that there is constant contrast from one scene to the next. You almost can’t quite understand or believe what’s happening half the time. The sad part is that because the contrast happened so often and the author went into such depth with the explicit drug use, sex scenes and gore, not only was it repulsive for me, but it actually got a bit boring.
For a 200-page book, this novel dragged on and on, and I struggled to pay attention until perhaps the last 20% when it seems to finally start going somewhere plot-wise. Her ‘best friend’ seems quite obsessed with her and is frankly quite annoying the entire time she’s there, and the kind of love interest, Eddie the Tesco guy, that Irina likes, seemed like a nice character but there wasn’t much depth to his character.
I was also frankly a bit disappointed by the ending; it ended abruptly and overall, I only gave this book 3 stars because I can respect the layers of the story, but I still hated the main character, found the book pretty disturbing and uncomfortable to read, and really struggled to read it despite being such a short book.
If you’re into these kinds of unhinged, disturbing and graphic literary novels, I’d highly recommend it your way but if you’re like me, and prefer to love the main character and see some more development rather than them going further and further insane, then perhaps this won’t be for you either!
What did you think of Boy Parts if you’ve read it?
Until next time,