Aug. 12th, 2013

Dead Teens

Aug. 12th, 2013 09:15 pm
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Skippy DiesSkippy Dies by Paul Murray

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This should have really been called Porky Dies because it owes much of its spirit to the 80s Canadian B-Movie "Porky's", with its gang of boys who only think of getting some action with girls, teasing each other, playing pranks and generally being obnoxious teens. Like Porky's, it even has an italian teenager who is the renowned "stud" of the group, though the novel distinguishes itself from the film by being set in an Irish Catholic boarding school rather than 1950s North America.

Skippy drops dead at the start of the novel, soon after arriving at a popular donut shop with his extremely obese and intelligent roommate, Ruprecht van Doren. The rest of the novel is a flashback of Skippy's life, loves, fears and adventures in Seabrook College. Other characters weave into this thread, like van Doren himself and his obsession with String Theory (clumsily cut-and-pasted into the novel from whatever research Murray did); the history teacher Howard "the Coward" and his midlife crisis; the drug addicted and dangerous school bully Carl; the beautiful and popular Lori from the girls-only school next door; and the old, dogmatic school priest who carries a few sex crimes on his shoulders.

I would have given up on this book at the start if this weren't my boyfriend's choice for our bookclub. I persevered through padded pages, teen humour that didn't cut a smile (though its obnoxiousness reminded me of my youth), and subplots that promised much but delivered little. Its small reward came towards the end, with Howard "the Coward" discovering Skippy's connection to the 1st World War and how he could use it to reach his bored students. It was surprisingly touching.

Looking around the internet, I'm surprised at how much people have loved this novel. I've missed something; maybe I'm too far from the teen I was once.

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April 2017


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