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Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin

I never would have found Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin had my close friend Sherman not let me borrow it after a particularly entertaining (and slightly inebriated) conversation about societal standards surrounding sex. Only book people get drunk, chat about social issues, and go "Oh! That's exactly what this book is about! Here!"

13 year old Sam Callahan and his party-girl mother Lydia are exiled by Sam's senile grandfather to a small town in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming. Lydia drinks and talks to the moose head on the wall to cope, while Sam daydreams through his classes and reads books usually on the high school required reading list. Sam finds an unlikely friend in Maurey--the girl at his school who previously deemed themselves mortal enemies--due to their shared interest in the "skipped parts" of books like Catch-22, Lolita, and The Diary of Anne Frank. Their interest in what doesn't happen between the main characters' make-out scene and the morning after leads the kids into an unexpected relationship. Despite consisting of everything any dating couple share--dates, gift giving, deep talks, and yes, sex--Maurey wants to be friends who "practice" together while Sam is head-over-heels for her.

Though completely inappropriate, Skipped Parts is one of those coming-of-age stories that sends soul-seeking adolescents colliding with adult problems. The weird, sometimes uncomfortable yet mostly hilarious juxtaposition of these incredibly young children reading, learning, and doing things that most teens and even many adults don't experience--reading difficult classic works, learning to shoot a gun, practicing a plethora of sexual acts, understanding the dynamics of relationships of all kinds in public settings, dealing with family member drama, and figuring out how to get what you want out of life--it is such a smart way to appeal to our inner-children as well as our adult selves. Sandlin found a way to use comedy and discomfort to navigate the bizarre experience of losing one's innocence.

My favorite character is a difficult split. I love Maurey, because of her upfrontness about sex, love, relationships, adulthood, and really everything in-between, as well as her reactions to the world around her. For example, when her mother asks about the book she's reading--Lolita--she tells her mother it's written by the author of Peter Pan. And when Sam tries to lie to Lydia about what they'd been doing all day--he said "playing Rummy"--Maurey jumps in and says "No, we weren't. We were trying to have sex, only we couldn't do it." The other character I love is Lydia, Sam's mom, for a lot of the same reasons. She is slightly unstable, getting drunk and chatting with the taxidermied moose she's named "Less Like Drinking Alone"("Les" for short), which is funny in itself. But when something more serious comes up, say Maurey's confession to attempted sex, Lydia responds in the best possible way: pulling out a hard taco shell, explaining female anatomy, and telling Sam and Maurey that sex is something to sneak around and hide at their age (or else society would fall apart). If that's not crazy enough, she then responds to Sam and Maurey's immediate desire to go "read comics" in his bedroom with a spontaneous game of crazy 8's in the living room with her present friend Dolores.

I would not give this book to my children for sure, but I would give it to any adult--especially ones with kids growing into middle and/or high school. Plus, they have to find humor in authors like Nick Hornby, Jack Kerouac, Tom Robbins, Larry McMurtry, Joseph Heller, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, and Carl Hiassen. It's an excellent read for anyone with a twisted sense of humor and who often thinks "what's the big deal about sex?"

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