I just finished the book Skippy Dies and I absolutely loved it. It is written by Paul Murray and is set in an Irish christian boarding school for boys. Many of the main characters are in their early teens and dealing with the kind of stresses teenage boys go through. They obsess about sex (especially with those cute boarding school girls next door), school, sports. Skippy does, in fact, die at the beginning of the book, in the prologue. But the story doesn’t end there. Instead, it jumps back several months and goes through what led to the boy’s death. The tale gets increasingly dark as you uncover more and more about the young protagonist and his friends, teachers and parents. Points of view switch off between chapters, which is an interesting touch. Sometimes you are looking through Skippy’s eyes, sometimes his sad history teacher Howard (the Coward), sometimes his overweight but brilliant best friend and roommate, Ruprecht. All the characters in the book, including very minor ones, are extremely well developed and the author writes beautifully.
I chose one particular passage that I though showcased how poetic and brilliant Murray’s prose is. It’s from the point of view of Halley, Howard’s girlfriend of three years, about the time she went to his family’s home for dinner.
Dinner chez Fallon was a riot of cutlery on good china amidst long lakes of silence, like some unlistenable modernist symphony, beneath the prevailing veneer of politeness, a seething cauldron of disappointment and blame.
I just loved it. Even though I have never been a 14-year-old boy nor a priest nor a teacher nor a boarding school student nor lived in Ireland, I connected with the story and was drawn in almost immediately.
Of course, the fact that I found a review written by Jess Walter, one of my faves, doesn’t hurt.
And, since I loved this book so much, I am sure the one I just started, also featuring teenaged protagonists (cough Percy Jackson # 4 cough), will be brilliant, as well. = /