TITLE: SKIPPY DIES
AUTHOR: PAUL MURRAY
Details: Long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2010
For a long time while reading this book I thought it was unlikely I would grade it higher than 3, but as I got on with the story I got to appreciate it more and more and in the end I was grateful that I had decided to read all of it rather than give up half way through.
Still, I'm not as impressed with this book as a lot of other people appear to be.
From the blurb on the back of the book I was under the impression that this story was going to be something like a tragi-comedy. I found very little to laugh about in this book though. I did laugh out loud once, while reading the book, but most of the time I found that the story was depressing me a bit.
This book starts with the death of Daniel "Skippy" Juster during a donut eating contest with his friend and dorm-mate Ruprecht Van Doren. From there the story goes back to the events leading up to Skippy's death. Events including scientific experiments with Ruprecht, training for swimming competitions, and Skippy falling in love with Lori, a beauty from the girl's school next door to the private boy's school where Skippy is a boarder. The big problem with his infatuation is that the girl has also attracted the attention of Carl, a big hulk of a boy without a social conscience.
Skippy has other problems in his life, apart from his love for Lori, problems which he keeps secret and which will, eventually, play a big part in his death.
After Skippy's death life in the school appears to return to normal but underneath the facade everything and everybody has been affected by his demise and more shocking events are to follow.
This book handles a lot of topics; it shows the world of teenagers in a scary and for me not quite recognizable way. We're confronted with bullying, drug use and dealing, sexual fantasies, and paedophilia among other issues.
What did strike me was the way the adults were described as having no more sense then the teenagers when it came down to it, although the selfishness of everybody in the story was hard to stomach.
I think the school in this story may well have been a metaphor for Irish society, with the old boys network ruling everybody's lives and the needs of the individual always taking the backseat to the requirements of the whole.
Whatever this book is or isn't though, it does leave the reader with a lot to think about and if those thoughts aren't always happy ones, they are definitely worth lingering on.