BOOK REVIEW: Not Everyone Is Special by Josh Denslow

For me, writing good fiction is about punching the reader through the chest and laying hold of their still beating heart, crushing it, and not relinquishing that hold until the book is finished. If that’s your type of writing then look no further than this very bold and daring debut collection from Josh Denslow.

Not Everyone Is Special is a unique collection of short stories with some flash fiction sprinkled in for seasoning, and Denslow is versed in both forms. The collection boasts fifteen stories of gritty realism, which are witty and damn right breathtaking at times. His style will inevitably bring comparisons to great writers such as Palahniuk, Fante and Bukowski who have developed a mastery regarding flawed protagonists and scoundrel characters. Denslow doesn’t look out of place being mentioned in the same breath as these writers – his collection is dark and melancholic, these thematic elements compliment the delightfully complex and constructed undercurrents woven in to each story.

Denslow has also laced his stories with elements of black comedy too, such stories as ‘Mousetrap‘ and ‘Too Late For A Lot Of Things‘ spring to mind, but the collection is littered with humourous phrases, which makes Not Everyone Is Special a very quotable collection.

‘The woman told us that she wanted to cut up her husband into little pieces so she could eat him and carry him around everywhere in her belly.
That’s true love, I said to my wife later as she pounded pork chops for dinner, each time matching my pulse exactly.’

Denslow has an arresting talent, a keen ear for conversation and a writing style which is fresh and challenges what’s out there in the current market. Denslow is like a fisherman, he appears to have cast a net out, capturing stories and daily experiences (over a ten year period – thats how long it’s taken to produce this collection), sewing these experiences together imaginatively and in doing so constructing stories that are both morbid and witty but told in a remarkably visceral way – which make Not Everyone Is Special a book that grabs you by the throat and forcefully screams at you to take notice.

Denslow’s outlandish metaphors and audaciously memorable similes coupled with his  deftly constructed prose and masterful storytelling prowess force you to ask fundamental questions about the human condition, and about yourself. It’s captivating and challenging fiction at its very best. There are so many stories within this collection that I could discuss, but I think it would be best if you discover Denslow’s brilliance for yourself, anything I can offer wouldn’t do his mastery any justice!

I haven’t been this excited for a collection to come out since Palahniuk released his collection Make Something Up – but where Palahniuk in my opinion (it pains me to say as I am such a fan of his work) failed to deliver knock out stories (a bit of a mishmash of real quality but with many filler stories) – Denslow has constructed a collection which is all killer no filler, each story is a stand alone masterpiece. It is a collection that I firmly believe can go on and win many awards, such is the readability of this collection, from a new and dynamic voice in the short story genre.

A collection that doesn’t pull any punches. Denslow writes in an unabashed, unashamed and unique way.

Not Everyone Is Special is a spectacular debut not to be missed!

Not Everyone Is Special is published by 7:13 Books and is soon to be published – find our more about 7.13 Books and Josh Denslow here.

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Josh Denslow

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Josh Denslow’s stories have appeared in Barrelhouse, Third Coast, Cutbank, Wigleaf, and Black Clock, among others. In addition to constructing elaborate Lego sets with his three boys, he plays the drums in the band Borrisokane and edits at SmokeLong Quarterly. You can follow him on Twitter (@joshdenslow) and at www.joshdenslow.com.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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