Not that anyone’s reading this, but it has been almost a month between blog posts. Things got very busy at work and life got a little complicated. Things are still busy at work, life is still complicated, but I have a little time to post in order to keep this fledgling blog going. Between work, piano lessons (the theory is a tough slog), and my writing class, I still have managed to get a few books read in the month of February.
One of those is “Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray. It generated a lot of buzz last year, but I actually came to it after reading Murray’s first book, “An Evening of Long Goodbyes” (also great). As you’re told in the title, and every review, the main character, a 14-year old at a prestigious Dublin boarding school, dies in the first few pages. The novel then goes back and pieces together the events before his death. This makes up the first 2/3s of the book and the reader is immersed in the world of today’s teenagers – a scary, wondrous, and sometimes boring place that Murray captures with amazing accuracy. Skippy’s rotund genius roommate, Ruprecht, who involves the boys in his experiments in string theory and the search for other dimensions, is a wonderful character. However, Murray also takes time and attention with the supporting cast of characters as well, introducing the sex-crazed Mario, cynic Dennis, and sweet Geoff. You can feel, between the lines, the pain, exhilaration and confusion of these boys as they try to figure out who they are now and who they will become. It’s also notable that Murray doesn’t shy away from the drug and alcohol use, emotional manipulations, and technological obsessions that sadly make up teenagers’ lives today. It all feels authentic. The last third of the book follows the characters we’ve come to love (and the ones we’re slightly frightened of) as they deal with the aftermath of Skippy’s death, also treated very nicely.
Although I think they were well-written for who they are, I enjoyed the characters of Howard, our eyes into the adult world of the school’s teachers, and Lori, the girl who manipulates Skippy’s affections, much less. But they are not easy or sympathetic characters and I think Murray did a great job involving the reader in their struggles to figure out how the best way to live their lives. Psychopath Carl, who gets first dibs on Lori’s affections through a combination of diet pills and bad-boy appeal, is very scarily drawn, but again, Murray did a great job so that the reader can see the rage and confusion fueling Carl’s slow decline.
All of this is to say that you should go read this book – I can’t promise that you’ll love every page but I think that’s true to the teens’ experience of the world (adults too) – sometimes it’s stupid, sometimes it’s uncomfortable and alarming, sometimes it’s hilarious, and sometimes it’s just achingly beautiful. I really look forward to reading anything else from Paul Murray.