Hey Book Club! Do you love to laugh? Well, the Campus Times has a recommendation for you. May we present: Jon Hart’s “Party School.” Sometimes when you want to laugh, you read a comedy and laugh with the author, but sometimes what you really need is a book that makes you feel okay with having, truly, no idea how to exist as a human being. Enter “Party School,” an alleged comedy that straddles the fine line of relatable teen-slash-20-something narrative and absurdist recap of a young man’s spiral through his toxic relationship — all while clad mainly in tighty-whities.
We found — or rather, “Party School” found us — through an email to our wonderful Humor Editor, Bryan Burke and since then, it’s been a running bit in the office that someone — ANY0NE — has to read the entirety of the book and review it. And thus, we four intrepid journalist-masochists set out to read. On a Tuesday evening, we convened. For two and a half hours, we read. And for the rest of time, “Party School” will be burned into our memory.
“Party School” follows Dylan Mills, a college freshman who may as well be majoring in weed. The reader follows Mills on his journey to a new school, dealing with — as one of our staff members put it, — “slumming it with the normies” and missing his long-distance girlfriend, Rosemary.
The shenanigans start from the very beginning. On page two (two!!!), the reader is introduced to Mills’ high school friend, who is referred to as TTK. Who is TTK, you might ask?
“TTK is short for The Taliban Kid,” Hart writes. “He has an insane story. His parents had been in the Taliban, and he’s an orphan.” And then the story moves on. If you’re still caught up on that, don’t worry, so are we, but we must move forward. “Party School” waits for no one.
Perhaps the best way to describe “Party School” is through a list of Mills’ priorities:
- Rosemary (no matter what she does to him)
- The terrifying possibility of being a disappointment to the entire universe
- Barry Manilow (you may know of his song “Copa Cabana”)
- His high school job — working at Luncheonette, the local restaurant
- Getting secondhand high
- Vert disc (ultimate frisbee, but on a mountain)
- Going to Mars
- …. (did we mention his exclusive use of the quad ellipsis?)
Readers may try to follow the plot, but, as in our case, it is near impossible to not get distracted by the sense of absurdity that builds with every sentence. Mills goes through — what we can only assume, as students of UR — the standard collegiate shenanigans for students that attend higher-level institutions that could be referred to as “party schools.”
He goes to parties, he slips-and-slides around on soapy plastic, he gets secondhand high while listening to his favorite musical artist, Barry Manilow, and regrets not auditioning for collegiate a cappella.
Oh, don’t you worry though — there is some substance to go with the substances. Just like every UR student, Mills suffers from a classic case of impostor syndrome — and just like everyone who submits questions to “Sex and the CT,” has a near-fatal case of barely-resolvable relationship trauma.
In particular, Mills’ relationship with Rosemary (which goes from laughably bad to insufferably frustrating) feels actively teenage and real, which makes the humor that follows it fall flatter. However, that in and of itself is food for thought for book club discussion. Why enthuse about a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel when you could instead, like us, slam on a Goodreads 3.9/5? (Wait, what? A 3.9? Maybe we should stop slamming it… Nah).
Speaking of which, as food for thought — according to “Party School”’s Amazon listing, the book is marketed as “‘Legally Blonde’ meets ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’” Does Holden Caulfield have competition as an insufferable and unreliable narrator? You’ll have to read to find out — but in our opinion, meh. (They also incorrectly say that Mills is going to Party School in “Party School.” He actually goes to a worse-named school, North South. Get with the program, guys.)
Despite some real emotion, this book is as relatable as a boomer saying “emoticon,” Trying too hard to be funny for a demographic they can’t quite fathom, yet somehow in need of countless rounds of revisions. Has Hart even heard of a thesaurus?
To elaborate, the number of times that someone in this office said, “What was that from?” about a statement a fellow reader quoted out loud from “Party School” mid-perusal — and then immediately went, “oh, no, not ‘Party School’” — is more than one could count.
However, as a way to showcase some of our favorites, let’s play a game. We’re gonna give you four quotes from the book. HA! Sike. We wrote one of them, and you’ll have to read it to figure out which. And don’t worry, you’ll have exactly as much context as we did when we read them.**
- “I never knew she smelled this good. She made the armpit smell good.”
- “I had on my nut huggers.”
- “What was this man on? I doubt gummy bears.”
- “I ate an enormous dinner of hummus, and it was great, but it knocked me out.“
And there’s more where those came from. Look, Book Club, if you aren’t convinced yet then we don’t know what else to tell you. This book brought us together as a group, and it will do the same for you. “Party School” gave us the best laughs we’ve had in a while, even if maybe they weren’t the kind of laughs Hart was going for.
What have we gained from this? I ask this genuinely, because I do not know what else we could’ve used two hours for if not to get a better understanding of just how insufferable this manchild’s life is. Do homework? Start that paper? Attend a real meeting? Bah, humbug. “Party School” transcends.
Have you ever heard of Sisyphus with that rock? This book is our rock. But we did achieve appreciation for one thing — to quote our beloved holy scripture, “surprise, surprise, it was Barry!” There we go. Totally worth it. It’s always Barry.
So join us, Book Club — and other non-affiliated readers — in our insanity; our sorrows, our joy, and our bewilderment. Maybe “Party School” can do for you what it did for us.
**Shockingly, despite there being a LOT — and we mean a LOT — of nut hugger talk in “Party School,” #2 is the lie.