• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Book Review: Boy Parts by Eliza Clark

ByMadeline Howland

Sep 27, 2023
picture o a newspaper titled 'book review'

From the newly-surging femme fatale psychological horror genre emerges Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts, which follows Irina, a fetish photographer with an eye for unconventionally attractive men. Irina frames our exploration of her world through incessant satire and mockery, presenting a unique way of interacting with others by seeking out the absolute worst in them. The novel’s witticisms range from fairy-tale shrouded sentiments of romance; ‘any man who pays attention to you, at that age, can transform from frog to prince in the time it takes to tell you he likes your hair’ to a complete mockery of it; ‘Eddie, Eddie, Eddie from Tesco, shall I compare thee to a heavily discounted piece of meat on the reduced shelf at the end of the day? Thou art cheaper and, hopefully, fresher’.

Yet despite her relatability, Irina is also an entirely unlikeable narrator. Her manipulative, narcissistic and self-sabotaging actions make her the antagonist of her own novel. Clark’s knack for creating such a distinct voice in a character, one that makes you want to tell her to shut up whilst hanging onto her every word, makes the novel irresistibly addictive.

Considering the novel’s title, it explores girl parts just as thoroughly as it does boy parts, with gender and power dynamics sitting at its heart as Irina’s cold, hard defiance against men wrestles with the inescapable vulnerabilities of being labelled a woman. Irina’s best friend Flo demonstrates a different way of interacting with femininity, embracing it and all the weakness that comes with it. She encapsulates the female vulnerability which Irina fights so hard to reject: ‘You want to think you’re not like other women, but you are, you know… That’s still how the rest of the world, how men are going to see you… You live in a woman’s body. You’re vulnerable.’

Irina’s growing frustrations with the world’s inability to take her seriously due to her looks and femininity become the novel’s catalyst for an ending which hurls itself at full speed into disturbing horror. This spiral into insanity by an increasingly unreliable narrator undergoing an identity crisis draws influence from its literary predecessors of gothic horror. A pretty face paired with a psychopathic personality whose looks are conflated with morality one too many times; cue the inevitable, Dorian Gray-esque descent into madness and immorality (set in the 21st century with more references to Tesco).

Whilst Irina is anything but a role model, and almost everything in the novel is illegal, immoral or entirely in-advisable, it still manages to offer connections with readers through its explorations of self-identity and examinations of the ugliness of the human experience. I would recommend the novel to anyone searching for the second hand catharsis of ‘insane woman in her 20s vs the void’ or anyone wanting to be simultaneously entertained and absolutely horrified.

Book review” by Thad Zajdowicz is marked with CC0 1.0