Thursday, November 4, 2010

Skippy Dies... (how's that for a spoiler?)

Let's be clear about one thing: I'm not really giving away anything when I tell you that in Paul Murray's latest book, Skippy Dies, Skippy does, in fact, die.  He dies in the first chapter of the book.  He dies eating donuts (not a bad way to go, I suppose) with his roommate, a modern-day, Irish Piggy.  The question for the rest of the book is, why did he die?  And, what did he have in mind when he wrote "tell Lori" on the floor in donut jelly as he was dying?

Let me be clear about one more thing: Ignore the inane reviews of this book that feel compelled to compare it to, "another popular series featuring an adolescent protagonist who, along with his friends, gets into all kinds of mischief at a haunted boarding school" (from Publisher's Weekly's review although, to be fair, Kirkus also made the comparison).  To compare this book to Harry Potter based on them both being in a boarding school is like comparing Wuthering Heights with the Catillac Cats because they both have characters named Heathcliff. 

Skippy's role as the central character in the book, in fact, seems to fades into the background after his rather dramatic passing.  I focused instead of the frustrated teacher whose life simply isn't living up to his expectations, the school bullies selling Ritalin as a diet aid to girls from the local schools, and the boys in the school whose interests vary from trying to have a dating life to trying to build a machine that will build a bridge between the different dimensions, thus enabling the living to communicate with the dead.  The titular character's interests and troubles go largely under the radar in this book, which seems somewhat odd until the end, when you realize that it is precisely his ability to blend in that has exacerbated many of his troubles. 

I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the end of this book; my attention started to wane for much of the middle matter.  I am glad I hung on, though, because the denouement really was thought-provoking, and capitvating.  It clarified Skippy's role in the lives of those around him and the role they played in his untimely death.

No comments: