Sunday, December 08, 2013
Reviewed by OFW editor:
Published: April 19, 2014
From the cover:
Why does Skippy, a fourteen-year-old boy at Dublin’s venerable Seabrook College, end up dead on the floor of the local doughnut shop?
Could it have something to do with his friend Ruprecht Van Doren, an overweight genius who is determined to open a portal into a parallel universe using ten-dimensional string theory?
Could it involve Carl, the teenage drug dealer and borderline psychotic who is Skippy’s rival in love?
Or could “the Automator”—the ruthless, smooth-talking headmaster intent on modernizing the school—have something to hide?
Why Skippy dies and what happens next is the subject of this dazzling and uproarious novel, unraveling a mystery that links the boys of Seabrook College to their parents and teachers in ways nobody could have imagined. With a cast of characters that ranges from hip-hop-loving fourteen-year-old Eoin “MC Sexecutioner” Flynn to basketball playing midget Philip Kilfether, packed with questions and answers on everything from Ritalin, to M-theory, to bungee jumping, to the hidden meaning of the poetry of Robert Frost, Skippy Dies is a heartfelt, hilarious portrait of the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of adolescence, and a tragic depiction of a world always happy to sacrifice its weakest members. As the twenty-first century enters its teenage years, this is a breathtaking novel from a young writer who will come to define his generation.
, it is easy to become engrossed in the story, to get lost in the Seabrook universe that Murray creates. His language is creative; descriptions form vivid, colorful images in the reader’s mind that clash in stark contrast to each other even though the majority of the novel occurs in what is presented to be a drab Irish boarding school.
Like Ruprecht’s beloved string-theory, the plot lines of
sprawl across the novel, meeting only in places where loose-ends need tying. Each string contains its own star, its own point of view, and its own style determined by and a representative of each point of view character. Where the teens are distraught, crazy, or excited, the language and pace speed up – punctuation goes out the window – and the reader is drawn deeper into their mind, feeling what the characters feel. This brings the reader closer to each character and more determined to discover their fates. This is the result even in those scenes where Skippy is our narrator. We know he dies. (No spoiler here, it’s in the title.) We even know how. But the events leading up to it are so wrought with chaos and suspense that the reader still feels that maybe – just maybe – she’s wrong.
is a novel that isn’t just entertaining; it contains subjects that any reader can take something of interest from: the events leading to Ireland entering World War I, quantum mechanics, Druid lore, the science of music – it’s obvious that Murray did his research. Each of these subjects is approached with enthusiasm, but most importantly they are relevant to, and pivotal in the movement of, the story. Parallels are drawn between events of the past and the unrest that devours Seabrook after the fateful doughnut-eating contest.
Most interesting about this novel, though, is that it is grouped in those few novels released in the past few years that stray from the traditional “happy ending” where everything is tied up in a perfect bow, but at the turn of the last page, the reader is satisfied, regardless.
Skippy Dies is all at once tragic, poignant, heart-string tugging, and all-consuming to read.
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