cover image Skippy Dies

Skippy Dies

Paul Murray, Faber and Faber, $28 (672p) ISBN 978-0-86547-943-2; $30 paper ISBN 978-0-86547-948-7

While there is an undeniable similarity between this long novel and another popular series featuring an adolescent protagonist who, along with his friends, gets into all kinds of mischief at a haunted boarding school, the two works couldn't be more different; this is a decidedly adult novel. The primary plot charts the brief life of 14-year-old Daniel "Skippy" Juster, a student at Seabrook Academy, an elite junior high school in Dublin. Skippy is smitten with Lori, who attends the neighboring girls' school, but has a problem: Lori's sort of boyfriend, Carl, is a sociopathic drug dealer. Another major narrative follows Skippy's history teacher, Howard "The Coward," a man equally infatuated with WWI and Miss McIntyre, a fellow teacher. With dark humor, Murray examines adolescent sexuality in an age of texting, video games, and the casual use of pharmaceuticals. Murray nails the banter of junior high, the nuance of middle-age yearning, and the excitement of string theory, and shows mastery in weaving disparate elements into a cohesive and engaging narrative. This is one of the darkest and funniest novels in recent memory. (Sept.)